“We’re landing there?!” I shouted to my copilot. The narrow strip of pavement—runway is too strong a word—didn’t look like it could possibly handle our mighty Cessna 310, and yet, there we were on short final, just a few hundred feet over the turquoise water of the Bahamas. The only reaction from the right seat was a gentle nod, so we continued. The landing turned out fine—ahem, on second attempt—but the experience was like nothing I had seen before.
More than 20 years after that “guys flying trip” through the Caribbean, I can still picture the view out the front of that 310. More important, I can still remember some of the lessons learned. My companions were all multi-thousand-hour pilots with diverse flying backgrounds, and I received a priceless education over the course of that long weekend. Most of what I knew about flying were S-turns and wind-correction angles; these guys knew short-field landings, thunderstorm avoidance, flight-planning hacks, customs procedures and more. Even casual conversation contained valuable insights on flying in the real world.
There was certainly no syllabus there—lessons were delivered over grouper sandwiches, and our itinerary was determined by when we had our first piña colada—but it was a better flight school than any airline academy could offer. By the end of the trip, I could even tell a reasonably good flying tale (something I quickly realized was almost as important as making a good landing).
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