Presidential Pilots: Colonel Mark W. Tillman (VC-25A)
Commander of Air Force One
Air Force One Pilot on
September 11, 2001
Commander of 250 person crew
Selected by the White House as the nation's 12th Presidential pilot, Colonel (ret) Mark W. Tillman served President George W. Bush as pilot and commander of Air Force One from 2001-2009. As the leader of a large organization, his tenure was marked with excellence and an adherence to a Zero Fail philosophy.
Col. Tillman commanded Air Force One through multiple national events. Most notably, he protected the President and his staff on the day of September 11, 2001 by escaping and evading many potential threats. Through careful planning and flawless decision-making, Col. Tillman and his crew provided two urgent needs for the President--complete safety and constant connection to the nation's first responders.
President Bush's seemingly impromptu Thanksgiving visit to the United States military in Iraq was another highly regarded success of Col. Tillman and his crew. The challenge was unprecedented--transport the most targeted man in the world into the heart of terrorism. One mistake would have left the President open to attack and cost the lives of US service members. Col. Tillman personally orchestrated and executed the covert operation with flawless success. His planning, done in complete secrecy, allowed for a complete surprise to the entire world including the press.
Col. Tillman later brought President Bush into the war zone on three other occasions and defended against numerous threats during his tenure as Presidential Pilot. Each of these experiences have been declassified and serve as a centerpiece to Col. Tillman's keynote messages on leadership, teamwork and the Zero Fail policies.
Col. Tillman's distinguished career spans 30 years in the United States Air Force. Utilizing his Bachelors of Science degree in Chemical Engineering (Tulane Univ '79), he served as a Rocket Propulsion Engineer upon entering the service but was quickly selected to attend USAF pilot training. His flying experiences include time as a T-37 Instructor Pilot for undergraduate pilot training, C-130 transport pilot, VIP airlift as a pilot in the Gulfstream III and IV and Presidential pilot in the VC-25 or Boeing 747.
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 2004 and promoted to Brigadier General by the President of the United States — the first military line officer to receive this honor (not confirmed by the Senate Armed Services Committee).
A thought-provoking and riveting story teller, Col. Tillman continues to mentor others as a consultant in the aerospace industry and flying as a corporate pilot. He approaches each opportunity with the same personal mantra, "Zero failure doesn't just happen ... successful leaders make it happen."