Bradford Sipperley

Aviation Safety Inspector, FAA General Aviation Group

FAA Safety Briefing
Cleared for Takeoff
4 min readFeb 28, 2024



By Paul Cianciolo, FAA Safety Briefing Magazine

Growing up in small-town America is a common theme among FAA employees featured in this column. Regular people from all over the country answer the call to public service and are passionate about improving aviation safety. Bradford Sipperley is another stellar example of bringing diverse experiences together to further our commitment to safe flying.

Photo of a yellow airplane on skis in the snow with the pilot.

Brad grew up in Clarkston, Mich. The pinnacle of growing up in any rural town is that kid-mowed baseball diamond etched into an unused field. That’s where he often found himself gazing up into the sky when small airplanes buzzed by — igniting the spark of eventually taking the yoke and flying himself.

“After working odd jobs, taking college night classes, and moving to Florida, I decided to join the Air Force,” he explains. “That’s where my aviation and weather careers began.”

Brad was first stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska as a Morse systems operator. But the best part of that duty assignment was the base aero club, where Brad earned his wings.

“I was hooked on flying from my very first lesson,” he adds. “My interest in weather and learning all I could about it was sparked by my flying experiences. Plus, the cold hard fact that in Alaska, one must know and understand the weather to be a safe pilot.”

The Air Force changed Brad’s specialty track and sent him to weather observer and forecasting training. Throughout his military career, he continued flying through aero clubs at every base where he was stationed. Brad earned an associate degree in weather technology from the Community College of the Air Force and a bachelor’s degree in aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

After retiring from the Air Force, he worked as a flight instructor, charter pilot captain, aviation weather instructor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, fire weather forecaster, and spent 13 years with the National Weather Service. Brad joined the FAA in 2014 as an aviation safety inspector in Fairbanks, Alaska. He worked at the local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) and Certificate Management Office (CMO). Before moving to FAA headquarters in 2023, he was the operations front-line manager at the Fairbanks FSDO. He is now responsible for policy and coursework development and interpretation for the Flight Standard Service’s General Aviation Group.

Photo of pilot fishing off a pontoon plane.

Brad continues to fly year-round on wheels, floats, and skis, including as a Civil Air Patrol (CAP) volunteer since 1988. He has even been credited with 6 “saves” over the years, flying missions for CAP tracking emergency locator beacon (ELT) signals, searching for overdue aircraft, and flying grids looking for missing hikers and hunters. With his extensive GA flying and weather expertise, Brad has some advice about the weather for even seasoned pilots.

“Awareness should begin with pilots observing the weather daily to learn how to read the sky,” he explains. “Just being able to recognize cloud types, understand how and why each one develops, and what each indicates, is so important. For example, those lenticular clouds that warn of turbulence or the growing cumulus clouds during the hot afternoon that could lead to showers and thunderstorms contain several hazards to flying.”

Brad adds that the most important fact is that the weather will, at some point, change. He advises understanding your limits and the aircraft’s limits you plan to fly concerning the current and forecasted weather conditions. Set your personal weather minimums and stick to them.

“Sometimes the shortest way home is the longest way around,” he adds. “It is better to go around the weather and arrive late than attempt to go through and exceed your capabilities.”

Paul Cianciolo is an associate editor and the social media lead for FAA Safety Briefing. He is a U.S. Air Force veteran and an auxiliary airman with Civil Air Patrol.

This article was originally published in the March/April 2024 issue of FAA Safety Briefing magazine.



FAA Safety Briefing
Cleared for Takeoff

Official FAA safety policy voice for general aviation. The magazine is part of the national FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam).