Airline Pilot of 43 Years

I had a cool surprise yesterday.  I was over in Preston with my Dad visiting some friends who were down from Scotland.  They had some friends with them who I’d never met before but as soon as I was introduced and they knew that I was starting at Oxford in April Mr. L told me that he had flown for forty three years.  I couldn’t believe my luck.  Most fortunately they were able to join us for dinner and I proceeded to ask him numerous questions about his flying career.

He first flew in his twenties and obtained his private pilots licence.  Shortly after he served in the military and flew off an aircraft carrier in Vietnam.  He described it as one of the most thrilling experiences of his life.  For the airlines he flew four engine propliners, the MD-11, A300 and the Boeing 747 to name a few.  I can’t remember all of them.  I have a great deal of respect for him and his skill.  Like all pilots of his age he said that airline flying isn’t what it used to be.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, if we were really supposed to do the raw flying I’m sure we would have been born then.  Maybe in forty years time we’ll be amazed at the new technology available and tell the new pilots that airline flying isn’t what it used to be.

At one time in his career he flew to Taiwan fifty times in a year.  Fly out, stay two days and fly back.  He loved it.  He was such an interesting person to be around.  It was obvious that he enjoyed his career very much.  I asked him what his favourite part of the job was and he said that it was being able to do what he enjoys on a regular basis – fly.  I’m glad he said that.  During my travels across the mighty internet I’ve come across a few suggestions that some pilots don’t like their job.  That’s a real shame for a lot of reasons.  I’ve never personally met a pilot who didn’t like his job and I’ve read the blogs of various pilots who love it.  Maybe it’s the odd few that don’t.  As cool as it is though, don’t forget that it is work.

His wife was just as friendly, I asked how she coped with him being away and she simply said: “I got used to it.”  They were very kind to give of their time, they were celebrating their wedding anniversary.  I can’t remember how long it was but it was long.  It’s experiences like these that make me want to be a pilot more and more.  I’ll have to think back to this moment when I’m having a tough day in ground school.

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