THE GRAY GULL EXPERIENCE
Why I Became a Gray Gull at Cape Air
I retired from American Airlines when the age limit was 60. I felt that I had plenty of gas in the tank and a desire to continue flying. Eleven years later, I still feel that way. So I believe pilots retiring from 121 airline careers at 65 can still enjoy five or even more years of continued flying. However, it’s not for everyone. Lifestyle choices, financial considerations, family situations, and health all play a role in deciding to pursue post-retirement flying opportunities.
I didn’t want to rust up in a rocking chair, and everything seemed to fall into place at Cape Air. I live near a Cape Air pilot base, and I’m home every night. My health has been good and my wife supportive. The pay has allowed me to postpone dipping into my retirement savings – this was especially advantageous during the recession years right after my retirement in 2007.
I must admit to some trepidation at the prospect of climbing into a light twin aircraft at this stage of life. Coming from military aviation and the 121 worlds, I had almost no general aviation or 135 background. I wondered about maintenance, training, and the safety culture. Those concerns were quickly allayed. In all of these areas, Cape Air excels. I felt very comfortable in the aircraft at the completion of a rigorous new hire training program. The aircraft have WAAS enabled GPS with terrain avoidance and ADS-B transponders with weather and traffic avoidance features. A new generation of planes is on the way beginning in 2019, but in the meantime, the Cessna 402 is a safe, capable aircraft. I enjoy the unique interaction with passengers who get to watch you do your job. You’re more than a voice on an intercom to them.
Maybe the most important result of my continued work at Cape Air has been the relationships and personal fulfillment I have experienced here. I have been given opportunities in flight training positions that were fun and rewarding. Working with young pilots has kept me young mentally and physically and afforded me the opportunity to past on some of my experiences. The personal relationships and camaraderie are reminiscent of my Navy squadron days. I treasure the friendships I have here and know they will continue for the rest of my life.
- Captain John Peck