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Thursday, June 28, 2012

A PILOT LOOKS AT 50


“I have spent over 2 solid years in the sky.  And after 2 divorces, 3 bankruptcies, 1 merger  and a furlough, I can even call myself a ‘Real Pilot’.”



Well, I went and done it, folks.  This month, I turned the Big 5-0!  In celebration (or lament), here’s an abbreviated update of my very first Cap'n Aux Blog post, “A PILOT LOOKS AT TWENTY” *. . . . 

 Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. 
—Hellen Keller
Fifty years.  Wow.  Over two fifths of that spent flying airplanes—and over 20 years of that for a major airline.  At 18,000 some-odd hours of flight time, that means I have spent over 2 solid years in the sky.
With 2 divorces, 3 airline bankruptcies, 1 merger  and 1 furlough under my belt, I can even call myself a “real pilot.”

DHC-8 wing silhouetted by the setting sun.

I love my job, but hate my career.
In this fickle industry, it’s no small miracle to get to the finish line with the same company.  If a pilot loses his job, either from furlough, firing or company bankruptcy, he starts at the bottom somewhere else—with starting pay.  While hired by one airline, I have no idea what the name on the door will be come retirement, or if there will even be a door left out of which to walk.  Indeed, as we speak, another merger appears to be looming on the horizon.

Will Fly for Food:
Staring down the barrel of a furlough.

But, day by day, I love going to work.  I get to fly cool airplanes, get to be The Man, wear those bitchin’ stripes, and sometimes even have a good time with a fun crew on  a layover in an exotic locale.
Still, by and large, it’s like any job.  You go to work, do your stuff, and count the minutes till you get to go home.  On average, I’m away from home four days a week.  Hotel rooms are more of a nuisance than an invitation to adventure...
My favorite vacation is not knowing in which country I’ll wake up the next day.

Visiting my buddy John in Colombia.
And yet, adventure calls.  And therein lies the greatest benny of the airline industry:  to see the world.
As a young pilot, I deliberately bounced all over the map while climbing the aviation ladder.  I’ve flown the Alaska bush out of Juneau, captained for a seaplane company in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and driven four-engine turboprops into Aspen and Steamboat Springs, CO.   During free time, I’d race out the door at every opportunity for some random world locale, armed with nothing more than a backpack and a vague idea of destination.  My favorite trip is not knowing in which country I’ll wake up the next day. 
My favorite world locales are:  Kyoto, Venice and Telluride . . . and any tiny fishing village with no phone, paved road or English.

Marksan and I join two airline employees for an epic adventure.

From atop a camel, I’ve seen the sunrise over the the Great Pyramids of Giza.  I’ve Eurailed through Europe and backpacked through Japan.  I’ve partied at Oktoberfest in Munich, Independence Day in Washington, and Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  I survived a direct hit from Hurricane Hugo in the Virgin Islands, and an earthquake in California.  I golfed St. Andrews, rock climbed the Australian Outback, ice climbed Switzerland, paraglided Japan, skied Canada, snowboarded the Swiss Alps, sailed the British Virgin Islands.  I’ve snorkeled Thailand, Tahiti and the Great Barrier Reef.  I’ve SCUBA dived shipwrecks in the Caribbean, with sharks and stingrays in the Caymans, and with giant turtles and humpback whales in Hawaii.  I've ridden mules in the Grand Canyon, elephants in Thailand, and outriggers in Tahiti.  I've kissed the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, the Blarney stone in Dublin, and a Swedish flight attendant in Frankfurt.  With 3 good buddies, I once spent a week in a tiny Venezuelan fishing village, hours from any phone, paved road or English speaker.
I didn't plan these things according to some elaborate "Bucket List;" they just happened.

I’ve witnessed a 360-degree rainbow, and a comet blazing amidst the ethereal shimmers of the Aurora Borealis.

Rounding out my 5 favorite world locales are:  Kyoto, Interlaken (Switzerland), Venice and Telluride—and any tiny fishing village with no phone, paved road or English.



Of course the cockpit of my machine has afforded equally grand sights and adventures.   I’ve seen the full moon rise over the Juneau Icefield, and witnessed a 360-degree rainbow in an Alaskan rain shower.  I’ve seen a comet blazing across a moonless night amidst the ethereal shimmers of the Aurora Borealis.  The Andromeda galaxy, the farthest object visible to the naked eye, is doubly so from the clear, thin air at 39,000 feet.  I’ve seen countless meteor showers, gorgeous sunsets and amazing sunrises.

Outriggin' Tahiti.

Lightning storms are incredibly awe-inspiring when viewed from above.  I’ve piloted over 250 “flightseeing” trips over the Grand Canyon, each one different and equally spectacular.  In the Virgin Islands I’ve spied eery, slate grey waterspouts—tornadoes on the sea—snaking across the water.  On countless Alaskan flights from treetop level, I’ve seen moose, bear, eagles, and endless pods of whales, from humpback to orca to beluga.  I once spotted a giant brown bear a few hundred feet below as he took an angry swat at me.*
Unfortunately I have scant photographic evidence of these spectacular sights, other than that which is indelibly etched in my mind’s eye.

Wings over Sedona.  (My first "landscape reflect by the wing" pic...but not my last ;)
I LOVE MY JOB!  And there’s so much more to do.  China, New Zealand, Jamaica, Eastern Europe, Africa . . . they are beckoning, whispering in my ear.  And if my little bucket list hasn’t yet challenged you to get out there and see the world, let me leave you with my favorite inspirational travel quote of all . . .

Pickin' at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.
“The world is a Disneyland made just for YOU-.”
Me :-)

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*See my previous post, “The Sky Fell.”

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Posting July 13th at 0000z (July 12th 1700MST)
Doc Aux's Magical, Cure-all Travel Tips!


20 comments:

  1. Hey Cappie! WOW! Another fantastic blog. This one on the more " we are living vicariously through all your adventures". Ha! What a life you have gotten to lead. Some might even be jealous, but I think it's so cool that you have experienced so much in your "50" years of life. Most of all that you are willing to share and the blogs are interesting. Hee! I must say I'm thinking more adventures, and good times are ahead for you in some yonder part of the world.

    I can first hand say you will not be disappointed with Africa, and of course most importantly Kenya. I'll be your tour guide:)

    Again, it was great reading some interesting facts about your personal life, that has helped to mold, and get you where you are today.

    Thanks Cappie...Cheers to another "50" years of your life and hopefully blogs.

    Bon ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Bon! And thanks for the offer! I'd love to visit Africa soon!

      I write to inspire others who love to fly and travel, so I hope it did the trick for you! We live in an unprecedented, magical time where we can defy gravity and be in any corner of the globe in a day's time. We have no excuse not to engage and embrace other cultures in order to expand our human experience.

      Uh, all that deep stuff, and to HAVE FUN DOING IT, LOL!!

      Delete
  2. Happy Belated Birthday Cap! This is a very interesting post. Kinda feel jealous no matter how hard you tried to make flying a challenging job...LOL. Two full years in the sky! Now that really is some time eh? All the best for the next 50 years of adventure :)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Shamis! I just want to make it an INTERESTING challenge to you, lol! Here's to the next 50!!

      Delete
    2. LOL...It already is, Cap'n! You're welcome. So, cheers to the next 50! :)

      Delete
  3. I get your point about not having an excuse to embrace other cultures and expand our knowledge and experience. I think though for so many they are naive to what is really out there, or lack the desire or possibility to travel. I know so many that are "afraid" to travel the skies to a foreign, unknown,and possibly "3rd" world country. Mostly due to danger and the fear of dying. Not realizing when it's your time death does not care.

    Hopefully for anyone reading your blogs they will get the travel bug and take a chance to experience the many diverse, colorful, hospitable cultures this amazing world has to offer.

    I'm on my way to pick up a "WINNING" lotto ticket for the trip to Africa...Hahahha!

    Keep-em-coming...Bon ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Here here, Bon! I DO hope to inspire those who are "chairborne," or "house-bound", lol!
      Travel is so fun and mind-expanding...and a mind is a terrible thing to waste! ;)

      Delete
  4. This post is brilliant haha. You are a lucky man :) In another life I think I would have gone to pilot school or become a flight attendant. Either or. Seriously. I just love to fly to new places. I can't imagine how those "sky lightshows" must look from above from shooting stars and lighting strikes to rainbows and everything else you described. I'm sure like you said, as in any job there are drawbacks, but from my limited knowledge over here, I can't help feeling the good outweigh the bad (hopefully) :)

    Thanks so much for sharing.

    Jeanine

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Wayfaring Girl, thanks for checking in--nice to see you again! Get out there and take an introductory flight lesson!
      Love your blog!!

      Delete
  5. Hey Captain!

    Whaow, they can never take those experiences from you! I just came back from the Dominican Republic and loved the nature (I was in awe at certain points during the tours we did) + culture. To see how these people live is a real eye opener. We went to a small island (where they also recorded 'Pirates of the Caribbean') and the only way to have a connection with the outer world was to climb in a three to get phone signal! They called it the Phone Tree and only in the very top you would have enough of signal to make a call.

    It's brilliant and there's so much to see!

    Bas

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can imagine, Bas. You're one up on me--though I've lived in the Caribbean, I haven't been to the DR, Jamaica, Haiti or Cuba...definitely want to go. I can imagine it's an eye-opener! Liked your last Dutch Aviator post about your trip...hoping to steal one-a your fine vids for my upcoming Vlog, lol!!

      Delete
    2. No problem at all! Help yourself haha ;)
      If you get the chance, go there! I enjoyed to the max!

      Delete
    3. Drats, I tried to download it from YouTube but it's not working! Can you email it? capnaux@gmail.com

      Thanks, Bas!

      Delete
  6. Hey Cappy.......How are those blue..."Handicap"....parking places working for ya...Old Man.....;)))....I didn't see the tag thingie hanging from the rear view mirror...of your "AirBus"...???!!!
    the Authorites..kinda are a stickler for detail.........course the 'walker'.....gives it away....I could have sworn..I saw a couple of 'Blue'....tennis balls on the front landing gear........LOL....OMG...Alright Alright......I'll give it a break......jeez..
    so "2/fifth's"...of your life.........!!!???.........Is that the "New" math...... ;/
    Mmmmmm..
    I prefer to only use the word "FIFTHS"......when talking about whiskey.....
    You sure have packed in in......in those first 50 years....
    and I am so "Appreciative" of everything you 'Share' with us...here......!!!
    we are the lucky ones.......!!!
    I look up to you......Cappy........

    and I do mean that "Literally"......too!!!!!

    It is very refreshing...to read......your blog.....and feel so at home....while reading......Not too much of the technical......but more of the ....emotional......
    I appreciate...on these "Journey's" of yours.......Riding "Piggyback"....was never so much Fun!!!!!!!!!and ....suits us all....so much.....!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Happy Fourth of July.....to you and all your 'Followers'...It is a Good Day...each day........ to be "Free"....and 'bound' only by our own imagination.........!!!

    I consider you a Dear Friend.........and plan on being a real "Pain in the ASS"....for the next "2/fifths".....of your life.......!!!!!!!!!

    MissTWA/Friend.....

    ps....Hows that 'WATCH'.....holding up.........LOL........

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Miss T, what a wonderful post! (once you get past the ribbing, that is!!)
      I guess you're right, I'm trying to convey the emotional, human experience of flying/traveling here. The web is full of the Tech side of flying, so I'm glad you're enjoying the experience I offer here!
      And Happy 4th, my Dear Pain in the Ass Friend!
      ;-)))

      Delete
    2. PS: The Thai watch is still tickin'...amazing, huh?!

      Delete
  7. Great post, Captain Eric. You sure were a busy bee, weren't ya? You explored many wonderful places...but sometimes the exciting adventures can happen not only where you are, but WHO you are with...(Keep that in mind if you EVER decide to visit Jules...eek!) ;)

    Best wishes for the rest of your career years...and life.

    Happy Fourth of July from this Canadian.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right, G. The travel experience and dynamic changes with whom you travel! And it's always tricky to find someone who wants to travel in your "style." I had a great group for Thailand, for example.

      Thanks so much for the best wishes and had a great party with friends for the 4th!

      Delete
  8. Hey Cap'n!

    Sorry for the late response! I'm not sure if e-mailing a vid is going to work. The file sizes are huge.

    If you go to www.keepvid.com you just paste the link and then you should be abled to get whatever you like. Let me know if it works, we can figure a way if you haven't already!

    Bas (By the way, nice date for posting xD, Bday :P

    ReplyDelete
  9. Find out how to book free flights with Travel Hacking.

    ReplyDelete

Sorry, folks, due to more spamming, Word Verification is back on. If you have trouble posting, please email your comments to me and I will post it for you!

capnaux@gmail.com