I began my career in commercial aviation in 1978 just as Airline Deregulation kicked off. At that time there were a lot of opportunities becoming available for professional pilots, and other aviation professionals, but many of them disappeared just as quickly. Friends of mine were hired by Braniff, Eastern, and others but I was left flying night freight wondering why I did not get a call. I did have a few calls. Eastern called but I missed their second interview because I was interviewing with United who did not call me for a second interview. Piedmont and Delta never called. American called and I chose not to respond to the second letter because of the A Scale/B Scale pay schedule. There were a few others, but no one offered a job I wanted or could afford to take.
So, there I was flying my Cherokee Six but I soon moved up to the Twin Beech (H-18) and to this day I will never forget the feel and sound of those radials in cruise. For those of you who have never flown a round engine find a way to do so—it is an experience in aviation that everyone should enjoy.
The next airplane that followed was the Navajo Chieftain (PA-31-350) and boy was I in aviator’s heaven. I had a three axis autopilot, a flight director system, a crew door for the pilot —no more crawling over boxes—, and turbocharged engines that would actually let me get above 10,000 feet. I had a great time with that airplane, but soon the whine of jet engines caught my fancy and I was off to fly the King Air 200 and then the Lear 25/35 series. Once again I was in aviator’s heaven but although I was making reasonable money I also had a growing family to support. I should note that as I progressed a s a freight dog, or corporate pilot, I began to get calls from my friends who had been flying for the airlines and they were in search of jobs. You certainly feel for your friends needs, and are sympathetic to their plight, but I felt fortunate and proud that I had been successful with my career especially with a family to feed. So, I listened and tried to help but opportunities were slim and I too was on a quest for more money, job security and a bigger airplane to fly.
I have had a lot of good times seasoned with the ups and downs of aviation and bad management. I continue to fly a few months of the year working on a contract basis but I am primarily involved with other business interests. I don’t miss the commute to a crew base, I don’t miss the eight hour international turnaround in Hong Kong, and for sure I don’t miss taking two to three days of time to get my body clock adjusted only to have to leave home and do it all over again. The ninety days or so a year that I fly reminds me of that but I do enjoy the people I see and work with.
We have all experienced the ups and downs of life as an aviator or aviation professional. My story is not that much different from many others and I have been successful overall; however, it is time for me to step away from airplanes and pursue other interest’s full-time. I am sure there will be days that I will miss the challenge but my only true regret will be not having flown the round-engine DC-3 and the B–707.
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