Aviation Professor Michael Buckland

Official title: Assistant professor of Aviation Technology


How long have you been at UAA?

After teaching as adjunct faculty for 16 years, I joined the UAA faculty full time as an assistant professor of aviation technology in 2001. I teach all kinds of courses in the professional piloting and aviation administration degree program, and the students regularly enjoy making me cry.

They like to think of me as “Sweet Old Buckland,” at least, I’m told that that’s what “S.O.B.” stands for. I ask you – would they lie?


Where were you born and raised?

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I was born approximately a year before my first birthday in Valdez, which was destroyed in the 1964 earthquake/tidal wave. (What’s there now is new Valdez, a few miles away.)  Rumor has it that I was difficult from birth on and arrived wanting to know why I hadn’t been given a womb with a view.

I grew up, or got older at any rate, mostly in Ketchikan and Sitka.  After graduating from Sitka High in 1967, I enlisted in the U.S. Army. After advanced infantry and airborne (parachute) schools I graduated from the Special Warfare Center at Ft. Bragg.

After being trained in intelligence agent skills, I joined what were nicely named “the Special Projects,” where American Green Berets conducted long-range reconnaissance missions and commando raids against enemy targets on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. 

Thus passed the next two years of my life, until I left the military and went into commercial flying.


When did you begin commercial flying?

After serving as a police officer in Oakland, Calif., I spent many years wandering the world, mostly in South America and in Africa. I flew as a bush pilot in Africa (I teach the UAA course in Alaska bush flying).

Many years later, after 10,000 flying hours and getting the Airline Transport Pilot licenses both for airplanes and for helicopters, I finally figured out that when I push the stick forward, the moose get bigger. I do not, sad to say, have an equal number of takeoffs and landings.


Tell us about your wife and children.

My wife, Jennifer, is an absolute treasure. She has such a tender heart for animals, which perhaps serves to compensate for her odd choice of a husband. 

We have a 15-year-old daughter, Lauren, who appears to have been born to command the western world.  Determined to emulate her father’s scholarly and philosophical bent, she has pink hair and wants to be a rock star.



I collect such antiquities as Roman, Greek and Egyptian pottery or artifacts. Recent acquisitions include a 5,000-year-old oil vessel from ancient Egypt and a beautiful Roman vase from Asia Minor. 

When gazing at such things I feel a deep sense of connection with those who have gone before us and lighted our way. In our understanding of law and liberty and learning and justice we stand on the shoulders of so many Greek and Roman thinkers. 

Though hesitant to boast, I do happen to know a little Greek – his name is Steve, and he drives a cab in Seattle.


List two things that your students would like to know about you.

I teach because I truly love what I’m doing. I love the university and its students, and I truly care about their personal and professional success.  (Never mind that roughly half of them appear to be in the Witness Protection Program.) 

My passion is to combine a knowledge of the humanities with solid technical training, so as to produce well-rounded citizens rather than (to borrow Einstein’s analysis) “well-trained dogs” with technical skills but little moral, ethical or historical awareness.  W.E.B. du Bois once said, “The objective of education is not to make men carpenters, but rather to make carpenters men.” 

I am in love both with ideas and with ideals, and I deeply regret the tendency of the modern school systems to substitute feelings for knowledge and equalization for elevation. I read constantly and love discussing the great ideas and the glory of Western Civilization.

I also happen to think that those professors who despise our culture and its amazing heritage should emigrate to the cultures they profess to admire, to experience firsthand the abject poverty, brutal suppression of human rights and cruelty toward women. 

Many modern professors find good things to say about those radical leftist movements that have produced the mass slaughter of dozens of millions of their own citizens, reserving their only criticism for America and those nations shaped by the great Western moral and cultural tradition. 


If you could have lunch with any three people, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Alexander the Great, who used the teachings of his mentor, Aristotle, to spread Greek culture and learning throughout the known world.

Julius Ceasar, whose intellect and daring brought Roman peace and justice to much of that world.

And, most of all, Jesus of Nazareth. He divided human history in half, yet is quite unwelcome in modern schools and universities. He is far and away the single most influential and significant person in my life.