still working (flying), presumably to see
what airline-retired life is like. It’s like this:
burgers, beer, and lies. It’s a good life.
To be fully accepted into the
group you have to have shed
Air Oregon was purchased by Horizon
Air, founded by the enigmatic and lovable
some ice and seen lightning
Milt Koult. It’s a regional airline that
survived, grew, and did well. Horizon
was then purchased by Alaska Airlines.
inside a thunderstorm at night.
So, from being hired by an airline
headquartered in a double-wide trailer
after a five-minute interview while
dressed in a smelly National Guard flight
suit, I worked six months as a copilot
and 25-1/2 years as a captain for three
different airline companies and never
missed a paycheck. All I had to change
was uniforms (and I still have a closet full
of those). Typical? Maybe. But I ended up
having a lot of fun.
That’s the fraternal bond.
What I’m saying is that the guys
around the table cut their “flying teeth”
in the Pacific Northwest, flying into all
manner of coastal, mountain, and windy
flatland airports. They stared down many
a thunderstorm, shed lots of ice, landed
on many snow-covered runways, and did
a thousand non-precision approaches
following a radial that took them up
canyons below the ridge tops so that they
could break out at 300 feet AGL to land
to the tune of a 30-knot crosswind. And
they’ve been No. 10 in the holding stack
at Seattle and Los Angeles and Salt Lake
and Denver. They flew on lots of clear and
beautiful days when the Pacific Northwest
mountain ranges shone like snow-covered
gems. All of that is a part of their flying
soul. In other words, they’ve been there
and done that in the airline business. But
guess what? That’s not what they talked
about when they first sat down.
The first thing they talked about—after
the initial insults, anyway, like, “Geez,
you look older’n dirt!”—was their health:
hearing, eyes, heart, melanoma. That stuff
is a “big deal” to pilots; it’s all about the
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