County Clerk shares presidential pilot past

County Clerk shares presidential pilot past

A lot of perks come with being the President of the United States of America, including some very secure VIP transportation.

Long before Tim Fitzgerald was flying a desk as the Clerk of Spokane Superior Court, he was piloting marine corps helicopters. One of his frequent passengers: a guy named Bill Clinton.

Back in 1996, then Captain Fitzgerald was a presidential command pilot. He saw less of the White House and more of the road, using his helicopter, "Marine One," to pick up President Clinton at one of his far flung destinations.

"We would meet Air Force One when it landed, pick the president up and take him out to the L.Z., the landing zone, drop him off in the landing zone, and the president would get into the motorcade to go further or he'd go straight into where his speaking engagement was," described Fitzgerald.

The Marine Corps taught Fitzerald to to fly, but only the most highly-rated pilots are trusted with the President's safety.

"There are jobs in life where there is like zero tolerance for mistakes, that's one of them," said Fitzgerald.

Marine One's flights help protect the president, but also reduce the traffic jams that come with motorcades.

"President Clinton, when he used to go to downtown Manhattan to go a give speeches down there, we used to land him right on the Wall Street pad," said Fitzgerald.

"[He was] very personable," Fitzgerald said of former President Clinton. "He would come into the cockpit and talk to you, and then when he left the aircraft, he would shake your hand and say 'Thanks for the ride, see you in a little while.'"

Fitzgerald misses his time in choppers, which include four combat tours in Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield.

He's transferred the discipline that comes with his "white top," no-fail missions to the clerks office.

"I miss that, but I have a great job here, you know as the County Clerk, it's a terrific job," said Fitzgerald, "you've met most of my staff and I have a terrific staff, it's the second busiest office in the county."