Charles was born in Medford, Oregon in 1964. He grew up on a small farm and worked his way through college harvesting wheat and grass seed in the Willamette Valley. He saved up and learned to fly when he was 18 — his instructor would land the Aeronca Champ on a farm road near the field Charles was working and give him a lesson at lunchtime.
After graduating from Oregon State University, Charles was accepted to U.S. Air Force Officer Training School and was commissioned a second lieutenant in October 1986. After pilot training, Charles flew the A-10 in Korea and in Louisiana, where they started calling him “Tuna.” He then moved on to the F-117 Stealth Fighter at Tonopah Test Range, Nevada and Holloman AFB, New Mexico. After the F-117 he was accepted as an exchange officer with the Navy, where he flew the F/A-18 Hornet in VFA-106. As a RAG (RTU) instructor, he was carrier qualified with 101 traps. He was then re-assigned to the F-117 and saw combat action over Belgrade in the Kosovo conflict. During Operation Allied Force, Charles flew multiple combat missions over Belgrade, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. After the F-117, Charles flew the F-4F with the German RTU at Holloman AFB, then finished his career flying the QF-4, becoming the first F-4 West Heritage Pilot.
In 2006, Tuna retired as a Lieutenant Colonel and command pilot with over 5,000 total hours in the T-37, T-38, A-10, F-117A, F/A-18A/B/C/D, T-34C, F-4F, and QF-4E/G. His military decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Aerial Achievement Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal with one device, Air Force Achievement Medal with three devices, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, Combat Readiness Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Air and Space Campaign Medal and Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon.
After retirement, he was hired by Southwest Airlines and flies the 737. He spends his spare time working on airplanes — he has restored a Stearman, T-6, J-3 Cub, DHC-2 Beaver, Beech 18, and Grumman Albatross. In 2006, Charles was fortunate enough to be invited to fly with the Lone Star Flight Museum, in Galveston, Texas, where he is qualified on the PT-17, T-6, B-17, B-25, P-47, F4U, AD Skyraider and the P-51.