Flying|August 2021
Senior Moments The trade-offs of airline-pilot life

Senior Moments

The trade-offs of airline-pilot life

It is a beautiful starlit night deep in the Bahamas’ Exuma Cays, warm and soft in the light caress of the easterly trades. I am sitting on a white-sand beach moodily lit by the flicker of a driftwood bonfire, sipping a dram of aged rum, and taking an occasional pull on an aromatic cigar. Piper is dozing at my feet, and along with Dawn and my brother-in-law Paul, a number of new and old cruising friends are softly chatting around the fire. All are adventurous kindred souls who have sailed here on their own boats.

I look out over the popular anchorage and can pick out Windbird among the constellation of anchor lights; our floating home glows just a little warmer than the rest. This is a sublime night, and it reminds me of all the other really good days and nights we’ve had in our nearly five years of living and cruising aboard Windbird. Moments like this feel serendipitous, like gifts from the universe we just happened to catch. We are indeed lucky beyond measure—but it is worth remembering that these moments are also the result of conscious decisions, trade-offs, hard work and sacrifice.

For our first three years aboard Windbird, I was a Boeing 757/767 first officer at my airline. This wasn’t an accident; I bid the airplane specifically because it dovetailed so well with our cruising plans (never mind that I had lusted after Boeing’s lithe, sexy 757 since I was 10 years old).

When Dawn and I decided to sell everything, buy a boat and head to the Caribbean, I was flying the McDonnell- Douglas MD-88. This is an airplane with a certain dubious reputation among airline pilots— well-deserved in my experience— but I would have happily continued to fly it if doing so had fit our plans. There was certainly the allure of instant seniority as other first officers bid to bigger, better-paying,less-cantankerous airplanes. But the “Mad Dog” was a year-round workhorse at my airline, with no quiescent season, and its very “ juniority”—the fact that people kept leaving it for greener pastures— made it perpetually short-staffed. It was no place for a lazybones pilot looking to hang out on his boat in the Caribbean half the year.

The 757/767 category, on the other hand, appeared to be tailor-made for the pilot who also loves altitudes of 0 feet msl and speeds of 6 knots. It was a niche fleet, with the airplanes mostly paid for and therefore no great need to fly for their keep. The 757 could haul full loads of people and cargo over routes where the 737-900 and A321 struggled; the 767 was big enough to cross the pond with ease but small enough to cover the secondary European routes.

In my adopted base of Atlanta, the fleet flew a ton in the summer and early fall, and it was all hands on deck. I didn’t mind—summer was my moneymaking season, when Dawn, Piper and I made our northward migration while the warm tropical waters spun up fierce hurricanes I wanted absolutely nothing to do with.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine



Jokingly clear Depp’s ex of taking dump in beauty store aisle

1 min read
Globe US
June 13, 2022


Boeing’s crew taxi returned to Earth from the International Space Station on Wednesday, completing a repeat test flight before NASA astronauts climb aboard.

2 mins read
Techlife News
May 28, 2022


‘Pirate’ star walks the plank in alarming court appearance

1 min read
National Enquirer
May 09, 2022

Airbus Posts Profit, Plans New Jet Assembly Line in Alabama

Airbus said that its profit in the first three months of 2022 more than tripled to 1.22 billion euros ($1.28 billion), helped by an increase in aircraft deliveries as airlines recover from the worst of the pandemic.

2 mins read
Techlife News
May 07, 2022

CemAir - Bouncing Back Strongly

As the airline industry slowly returns to a 'new normal', Johannesburg based carrier CemAir is thriving. The airline is pushing ahead, into the gaps in the market left by the departure of competitors such as SA Express and Mango, and the slow restart of SAA.

4 mins read
SA Flyer Magazine
May 2022

The Jets Caught in Putin's Web

Owners of planes stuck in Russia want a $10 billion payout. Insurers say not so fast

4 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 02, 2022


The Oscar-nominated actress looks back at the long road she has traveled

5 mins read
Closer US
May 09, 2022

Russia's Elon Musk Gets Grounded

○ The aviation mogul’s S7, the nation’s largest private airline, faces uncertainty after lease terms were violated during the Ukraine war

4 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
April 11, 2022

Caribbean 100-footers showdown


2 mins read
Yachting World
April 2022

Nurturing Nature

Connect with the abundant flora and fauna of Belize.

2 mins read
Global Traveler
March 2022