Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

01 July 2006

A Pilot Looks At 50

Apologies to J. Buffet...

So, ever since I was a kid I've had blood pressure issues. From my very first flight physical exams the doctors were always warning me about it. "You better quit smoking," they'd sternly advise, although I had never even started. Maybe some people just have naturally high blood pressure. Or maybe my arteries are about to pop like party balloons, who knows. Anyway, one flight surgeon suggested that I needed to go lie on a beach and drink grapefruit juice for a living. I was in his office at Kennedy Airport in New York City at the time, where the helicopter I was flying was based, about as far away from a peaceful beach as one could imagine.

Long story short, I eventually find myself living in Pensacola, Florida. We have absolutely gorgeous beaches here and yes, I like to go out and lie on them. One day, I found myself out there, drinking grapefruit juice of all things, when I got that little shiver of deja vu. Like, wow, man- just what the doctor ordered. Only it hadn't helped my blood pressure much. Not high enough to need medication, mind you, just high enough to give them concern.

Okay, so for the last five years I've been working for this guy who is trying to resurrect the FH1100 helicopter. It's been tough...tougher than we ever imagined. There are a lot of obstacles in our way. But the potential payoff is tremendous. Even if we only produced twenty or so helicopters a year, we'd be sitting pretty. We're not out to crush Frank Robinson; we just want a small slice of the five-seat, single-engine, turbine helicopter pie- a pie which is still quite large.

But one can only wait so long, and I've reached the end of my rope. Sadly, it's time to go. I hate leaving, when we seem so close to success. But it has seemed that way before. What kept me going back every day was the possibility that just one of the deals I was working on would go through. I mean, they couldn't all be duds, right? Well, so far... So how long to you keep at it? If you're like my boss, the owner of that company, quitting is simply not an option. But the rest of us have that option. And I exercised mine.

A guy we know - a successful real estate developer - owns a little house down on an island down in the Caribbean. Actually, he owns the island the house is on too. But the island isn't big enough for an airport, so he has to land his corporate plane on a nearby island and take a boat over. He was a helicopter pilot in Viet Nam, so he bought a helicopter to use instead of the boat.

This guy is developing property on these so-far-undeveloped islands. The idea is to turn it into a resort for rich Americans. It will undoubtedly be a success. There are up to fifty-five employees working at any given time. Since he is not down there full-time, he needs someone to manage operations in his absence. This is where I come in. The job requires actually moving out of the U.S. for the next two years. But the salary/benefits are tremendous. It was truly an Godfatheresque "offer I couldn't refuse."

One of my responsibilities will be to keep the helicopter at the ready for when he's "in town." When he's not, I get to use it. How sweet is that! But I don't kid myself, this will be no vacation (although all my family and friends think it is). I suspect there will be sufficient time for lying on a beach and drinking grapefuit juice. At least I hope so.

It's sometimes hard to leave one job for another. Leaving PHI was relatively easy. After 13 years, it was way past time to get out of there; I had waited too long while working on getting the union in and the contract negotiated. But leaving FH1100 Manufacturing is incredibly hard. I have really enjoyed my job and the people I've worked with. More than that, I've enjoyed learning about the helicopter from the molecules outward. It has been fascinating to go back in the historical documents and see stuff that was happening even before the ship was certified. Not to mention the pleasure that comes from having real input into design changes in an aircraft. How many line pilots get to do that!

Life goes on. It pushes us forward, sometimes when we're not quite ready to be pushed. We have to learn to go with the flow. I wish my friends at FH1100 Manufacturing nothing but the best. I wish for them unbridled success. And I regret that I will not be there to share it. What happens when my two-year committment is up? ...I'm not quite sure. But I'll let you know when I get there.