Jim Tilman – Aviation and Journalism Trailblazer

ImageJim Tilmon served in the United States Army Corps of Engineers for eight years, earning the rank of captain. His interest in flying carried him from the U.S. Army to American Airlines in 1965, where he became the airline’s third African American commercial pilot and the country’s fifth. Tilmon spent twenty-nine years with American Airlines before retiring; his talent earned him the Captain’s Chair Award from American Airlines; inspired United Airlines to grant him the title of honorary captain; and compelled the FAA to name an aviator’s navigation point after him.

While still piloting aircrafts, Tilmon set another precedent by hosting the first live weekly magazine show developed for and by African Americans. ‘On Our People,’ premiered one week after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Tilmon’s guests included notable politicians, artists, and activists, such as Harold Washington, author James Baldwin, and jazz vocalist Johnny Hartman.

After four years at WTTW, Tilmon became a weather forecaster and aviation and science reporter at Chicago’s NBC affiliate. Tilmon appeared on numerous national programs, including: ‘Hardball,’ ‘NBC Nightly News,’ and ‘Nightline.’

Tilmon was awarded a Chicago Emmy in 1974 and was nominated for a National Emmy and the Illinois Associated Press and Illinois United Press International awards for excellence in reporting and broadcasting. In 2002, the Chicago Chapter of National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences presented Tilmon with the Silver Circle Award for twenty-five years in television.

In 1994, Tilmon retired from the airlines and NBC and moved to Arizona, where he continued to do on-air aviation reporting. In 2002, Tilmon returned to Chicago as a weather forecaster and aviation reporter and analyst for the CBS affiliate. In 2004, Tilmon was inducted into the Chicago Senior Citizens Hall of Fame, and was awarded the Luminary Senior Award for his impact on social and cultural life in the City of Chicago.


38 thoughts on “Jim Tilman – Aviation and Journalism Trailblazer

  1. I was so happy to see Jim Tilman today on Fox, I have been “out of his loop/area” for many years. He looks healthy and happy. Keep it up, Mr. Tillman. We always enjoyed seeing you on Chicago tv.

  2. Jim, have not seen you in years. We met many years ago in Washington,D.C., when you were a pilot, I was working for FAA. Good to see that you’re still the “go to person” to provide aviation expertise and wisdom. This March 2014 missing plane mystery has presented another opportunity to see your skills at work. You look well and in good health. The best to you. Stay well, our health is our wealth. Beverly Hemmings

  3. Love seeing Jim Tilmon again. I am a native Chicagoian who had the priveledge of being in the audience of one of his shows on WTTW Chicago. I was young and my mom dragged me to the show but I am go geatful for the experience. It will always be an extrardinary experience for me

  4. I saw your interview on CNN last night March 17th about the missing Malaysian jet. You chose to badly criticize the Malaysian air trffic controllers. I am a 30-year veteran air traffic controller at Chicago Center, and I take offense to your criticism of the Malaysian controllers. Your comments were 100% idiotic. You have no idea what you are talking about. You should absolutely apologize for your comments, and stop talking nonsense.

  5. Mr. Tilman: I remember you from Chicago news broadcasting (WTTW I believe). I just saw you on CNN reporting on the disappearance of Flight 370. So glad to see that you are still “on your game,” but sorry that it has to be such a sad story. I moved to the St. Louis area in 1980 and it is always nice to see a bit of home.

  6. I jus would like to share some info. on a nigerian pastor out of nigeria….he suppossedly predicted the doomed flight mh370..in 2013….this pastor said that the plane would develop a fault on the tarmac but the pilots was impaitent…also that the pilot would lose his bearings and all on plane has passed away…the pastor’s name is tb joshua…I wish that capt.tilman could look into this…if the pilot truly got lost after not getting his plane looked at instead of taking off…that’s bad real bad..

  7. Don’t have Jim’s email address. To whom it may concern: make sure he sees this message. Thank you.



    “New technology can be activated by the pilots, government agencies, even on-board sensors; not even a tortured pilot can give up control; dedicated electrical circuits ensure the system’s total independence”

    ” … once activated, takes control of the airplane away from the pilots and flies it to a predetermined landing position. ”

    “Not only is it “uninterruptible” — so that even a tortured pilot cannot turn it off — but it can be activated remotely via radio or satellite by government agencies.”


    Boeing Uninterruptible Autopilot


    Also see,


    Note that in this article there are specific quotes from Aviation Week, and links to the quotes. But the links go nowhere. Likely they have been sanitized.

  8. At 35,000’ a 16” crack beneath the ACARS antenna, became a tear and launched it, like a cannon shot…

    Captain Dirck Hecking
    6215 Coffman Rd.
    Indianapolis, IN 46268
    317 293 6709 vm for callback
    317 513 2616 cell

    Reviewed hourly -effective until revised- 3/28/2014 9:16 AM

    My investigation findings – ALERT – need urgent voluntary action by operators to inspect all ACARS antenna mounts for damage from corrosion, static pitting, cracking, tearing, regardless, whether or not the aircraft is subject to Boeing S.B. 777-53A0068; so as to prevent loss of control by cabin rapid depressurization and loss of the aircraft. There is no mention in the S.B. that the ACARS antenna would be ripped off the plane, forthwith. Boeing WARNINGS cite one operator of the 777, who discovered a 16” long skin crack, associated with the electrical bonding device, beneath the ACARS antenna, which was discovered during routine maintenance. Thus the electrical bonding issue should be the sole focus of disarray.

    STOP – All 777 units, subject to S.B. 777-53A0068 need proof of compliance with it’s
    particular express inspection and repair directive, while the balance of the fleet
    need to discover through inspection any other pattern that will lead to the launch
    of another antenna and loss of control due to rapid decompression. – STOP

    Latest MH Flight 370 Timeline

    Abstract –
    ●off schedule cabin altitude
    ●off schedule cabin rate of climb> hypoxia > stupor> coma and death
    ●ACARS antenna blow-out due to:
    corrosion> crease> crack> tear> ~20 minute final development to> boom> ACARS Antenna canon shot> ~ 3 foot hole and gaping> plane altitude 35,000′ . cabin alt 35,000′ >.ambient temp -40C cabin temp -40C> cabin walls `2″ solid ice > all souls frozen solid > so much more.

    Systems –
    ACARS ON Automatic confessing the situation steadily.
    Electrical ON AUTOMATIC
    Pressurization AUTO horn active, outflow valves fully closed
    Hydraulic AUTO RAT deploys later
    Fuel AUTO
    Auto Pilot ENGAGED
    Auto Throttle ENGAGED
    Altitude Hold ENGAGED
    Mode L Nav GREEN
    Mode V Nav ~~~ ARMED???
    Beijing Route Status MAGENTA
    ETA Beijing 0631 Q dead or alive on time

    End of life –
    ACARS Final Report ~ 0107Q
    ACARS Antenna launch ~ 0123Q
    0128Q Then: Pilot (in a stupor) 1. sends autopilot toward safe harbor, 2. sends SOS received by our US forces, Thailand – “CABIN FACING DISINTE-GRATION LANDING SOUGHT”– and 3. inadvertently turns off the transponder, fumbling his attempt to squawk emergency. -end of life
    ACARS 0137Q Report – MISSING and ACARS ping off torn coaxial lead.

    Duty and Responsibility –
    The fact is, that the ACARS antenna suffered from a +16” crack beneath it and could explosively leave the plane. This was known to all operators since the Alert posted June 12, 2013. It appears the term all operators, which includes the Malaysia Government Airline, had been strictly WARNED by both Boeing and the FAA; that a failure to inspect and detect the plane’s crown skin properly, can propagate to the point where the fuselage skin structure, can not sustain load… resulting in, possible, rapid decompression and loss of structural integrity.

    And In the broader scope-
    Without conjecture, the authoritive “Malaysian Government Airline occupies Ground Zero for failing it’s responsibility and duty, to provide safe air service under its laws.. I feel the directive should be addressed to all ACARS/satellite antenna users (rather than just 777), who mount the antenna to the pressure vessel. And of course, FAA and other oversight, might have failed. So, Inspect it now.. Save your ACARS antenna and more today! The unit cost of each of these inspections was less than $3,800.00. /s/ -END

    Happy Landings Capt.JIm…

    Captain Dirck Hecking (70)
    6215 Coffman Rd.
    Indianapolis, IN 46268

  9. Mr Tilman, It is my claim that the pilots for AH370 was on a nite flight and the older pilot let the younger pilot take the controls while he caught a few Z’s,the younger pilot after awhile did the same as the older pilot-caught a few Z’s also,when the plane reach its destination and with out further input in to the computer it turn as programmed,the younger pilot raised his head an saw that he was still flying and that the transponder was malfunctioning and turned it off and went back to sleep,but was headed back in the opposite direction.the plane was flying itself until it ran out of fuel,and all hell broke loose with the alarms.Now to prove by thesis we have to fine the plane and the black box.

      • I was trying to frame my opinion around human error, based on the scattered data that was being disseminating in plain sight.Yes! I believe that the lack of oxygen was the cause and effect at the end but I feel that we are all concern and want to get to the facts surrounding this case, I sure would like to?

  10. This is a no conjecture zone…


    At FL 350, at fault a 16” crack beneath the ACARS/SATCOM antenna, became a tear disabling it.

    Malaysian officials were officially warned by Boeing and our FAA months in advance.
    In fact the airplane was undergoing routine maintenance in New Zealand at the time.

    Boeing found, that over cycles a fastener beneath the SATCOM antenna was at fault.

    An ALERT service bulletin 777-53A0068 of June 12, 2013 warned of the catastrophe,

    Where fuselage skin structure, can not sustain the load, decompression and loss of structural integrity.

    The inspection cost per plane ~$3,020.00.

    Thank you


    • We must have the facts in order to compare, to see if one thing has anything to do with the other (fL370 in comparison to fl350).I’m not trying to discredit any one and I would like to wait for the black box before I start issuing medals out. Sometimes all we have is a gut feeling,There have been a lot of opinions regarding this situation, so lets try and stay positive above the fray.

    • Your model has an obvious flaw. It completely fails to account for the known flight path of the aircraft. I just explains, if it does, why the ACARS and transponder failed. But even here you have a problem. The aircraft is claimed by Boeing to be triply redundant, but what you posit is a single point failure (of ACARS and transponder).

      My model explains everything. The aircraft was hacked. Although the Uninterruptible Autopilot is not as yet installed, it is patented and thus in the public record for bad actors to exploit. See my previous comments.

      • You could be right are you could be wrong,but there is still one thing that is true-there was a catastrophic loss of people.Now! we could go on debating semantics until the cow come home.But it is still human error,the redundant systems could have been schedule for repair at the maintenance center,the plane may have been schedule for other fix’s,but we just don’t know.Your presumption of the redundant systems, fail to prove any conclusion based on a lack of insufficient evidence.

      • The redundancies could have failed due to lack of maintenance, but the flight path sustains my model. I am just saying it is the best, and IMO only model that explains the known facts.

      • All the comments have been thought provoking. And I continue to learn more about aviation. The thing I’ve learned most however,
        about this tragic incident is the importance of saying “I Don’t Know” – Watching the media frenzy and speculation stories, that add hype and drama to Breaking News when just saying “I Don’t Know” is the truth and somethings in life our not within our control or understanding. Hopefully, in time we will learn more about what happended to Flight 370, and if we never do, perhaps we’ll learn some valuable lessons about life – patience is a virtue and Don’t Make Assumptions

      • Beverly,have you ever heard that old wise tale about the duck? If it looks like a duck,sounds like a duck and walks like a duck,I believe you can make a clear assumption on the rest of this old wise tale.This might even give you a good laugh,I think we need to laugh every now and then.Lee

      • This is a no conjecture zone…

        There is one ACARS/SATCOM antenna on the 777. The 16″ crack developed to a tear beneath it; which breached the pressure vfessle, disabling it. Boeing and the FAA went on to WARN of dfecompression and loss of structural integraty. The Boeing/ALERT service bulletin 777-53A0068 of June 12, 2013 warned of the catastrophe. The weight if this unbridaled fact takes away the notion of nafarious activity; which leads to a few survivors trying tame a tiger on a leash.


        Captain Dirck Hecking
        6215 Coffman Rd
        Indianapolis, IN 46268
        317 293 6709vm

  11. Mr. Greenberg, thank you for thr haads-up regarding uninterruptable autopilot (UAP). This is an especially viable solution on many levels. The current hardare can land the plane, apply the breaks and more. The ACARS/SATCOM antenna, is the means used to transfer the almost real-time signals to ground controllers.

    I am sure all of us have seen that drone control manipulations, are rock solid these days.. The military, ACARS/SATCOM antenna, is the means used to transfer the near real-time signals.

    The Boeing UAP project relies on the civil version of same antenna ARINC protocol, Boeing WARNED all operatord (~150 US units affected) more than seven months.prior; observing, one operator (of +40units ) found a 16″ skin crack beneath the SATCOM antenna. I believe Boeing and the FAA when they teach. The skin structure can not sustain the load, with subsequent decompression and loss of structural integrity beneath the antenna rendered it inoperativr as collateral dammage in the course of decompression.

    With the SATCOM antenna data signals cut, no UAP control signals would be available to the UAP receiver.

    I make no offical statement, as to the airplane’s behavior after the decompression. With as little comment as possible I cut and paste what Boeing and the FAA teach.

    Nevertheless, after being oxygen starved and near frozen some good people may have lived and tried to save the plane.


    Captain Dirck Hecking
    6215 Coffgman Rd
    Indy 46268
    317 293 6709vm.

    • There’s another scenario to hack the avionics which doesn’t depend on external antennas. I have it on good authority that the avionics computers communicate with each other via internal WIFI. So the control signals could be sent from a laptop in the cargo bay. In any event, the key problem with your scenario is that it fails to explain the flight path. If the antenna had ripped off, with structural integrity sufficiently intact (as shown by its flight duration), it would have continued on its programmed flight path to Beijing.

      • Ed, I like your tenacity and your straight forwardness,I wish I knew more about this subject.
        so If you are a pilot, I will concede to your expertise for now! I hope you will say a pray on your end and I will on mine.Have a nice evening Lee

      • Thanks for your kind comments. I am a retired software engineer, and IMO the scenario I posit is the only one that fits the facts. As far as the internal WIFI which the avionics computers allegedly use, this was told to me by a friend who works for US Intelligence, a retired one star general. I am working on getting further confirmation of this alleged fact about the avionics WIFI.

  12. I have to trust Boeing and the FAA, when they say operators must inspect and repair the crown-skin beneath the satcom antenna for corrosion, cracking in 777-200 units; because one operator of ~45 units found all corroded an one had a 16″ crack. Such condition leads to decompression in MH units and loss of structural integrity. Airplanes built in the last six years are not listed.

    This set of facts discounts notions that unwanted intruders caused the cross country ride thereafter. What the ground track does teach is more likely than not some persons survived long enough to make control inputs


    • We human beings are suppose to do a lot of stuff but I think we get to busy with other things. Or we just keep put them off until something happens and then we wish we had done them.I have some painting that I have put off for fifteen years,Its in apart of the house that my wife don’t spend a lot of time in.I hope she don’t read this tweet.

    • The major glitch in your theory is that the aircraft changed course and initiated its sharp left turn BEFORE ACARS and the transponder ceased transmitting. This would tend to rule out a catastrophic failure of the antenna unit as the cause of the problem. There was time enough — a few minutes — for a mayday during the interval between the left turn and the loss of ACARS and transponder.

  13. Thank you Mr. Greenberg.

    This is a conjecture free zone.

    Before you debouch my report, please take a moment to revue the timeline related to the onset of the disaster. The Malaysian government announced it received the doomed planes:

    ~ 0107Q, ACARS status data dump [a]. then recognized the turn at
    ~ 0128Q When in the same moments, hypoxic pilot (dying) 1. sends autopilot toward safe harbor airport, 2. sends SOS on 121.5, received by our US forces, Thailand – “CABIN FACING DISINTE-GRATION LANDING SOUGHT” – and 3. inadvertently scrambles the transponder code, fumbling his attempt to squawk emergency.
    ~ ACARS 0137Q Report – MISSING and ACARS ping without ordinary data dump…

    Our hypoxic and dying pilot:
    Fly the plane – Check autopilot on
    Navigate – turn for safe harbor
    Squawk Emergency – fumbled

    I do not understand any claim of…

    Q1 …the aircraft changed course and initiated its sharp left turn BEFORE ACARS and the transponder ceased transmitting? Therefore no Boeing/FAA promised hole in the plane.

    A1. I feel the A/P turn initiation witnesses cabin decompression and potential loss of cabin integrity. There would be no turn or SOS for disintegration otherwise.

    Q2. a few minutes — for a mayday..?.

    A2. dying pilot sends SOS on 121.5, received by our US forces, Thailand – “CABIN FACING DISINTE-GRATION LANDING SOUGHT.” [Google MH 370 SOS avoid proxies] I feel these chosen words sent over the comm. radio on 121.5, to reflect the manifestation of which, Boeing’s ALERT service bulletin 777-53A0068 of June 12, 2013 warned. (Google for the raw ALERT avoid proxies)

    Q3. Laptops and hacks?

    A3. The ARCARS/SATCOM system was engineered with computers. I have searched and failed to obtain support, As such I would appreciate sources of information for further research.

    What happened that dreadful night is easy to come to know. The Malaysian government let everyone down by not following industry protocols. Bad on them! But even worse, is the fact they are releasing deceptive information, withholding information themselves and through puppets these days in order to cover-up their crime.

    Everyone knows the old axe “finding a needle in a haystack. bur, here it’s different.”
    The location of the needle is well known by the perps. and they are busy stacking bales of hay around it. [There is a legal term for this, an ugly one at that… PROLIX [just google it.]

    Respectfully as always…

    Captain Dirck Hecking
    6215 Coffman Rd,
    Indianapolis, IN 46268
    317 293 6709 vm

    [a] An analysis of that data, and all previous half hour reports, has been withheld by the Malaysian prime minister, Mohammad Najib, whose ordinary duty binds him to deliver the “goods.”


  14. Mr Tillman-I would like to ask you a question and hopefully you can answer me. Many years ago, my husband and myself were flying, either to California or Florida, and the plane was up about 25,000 feet and we were banking to the left, when all of a sudden, in the top of a cloud was the silver metal box like kite, although it wasn’t a kite, but it was metal, with only silver sides, not a box but just an oblong metal like object, that when the wing passed it, it kind of bobbled back and forth from the gush of the air. When I tell someone about this they think I am imaging this. Please tell me if it was a sattlelite or weather box of some kind.

  15. I remember Mr Tillmon from many years ago when I was in High School. I always looked forward to his weather forecasts. 🙂

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