By the end of the next sentence, those of you who aren’t familiar with my writing will know what those who are familiar already know: I’m an idiot. Leaving skydiving to go and fly for an airline wasn’t nearly as cool or as much fun as I’d imagined. Told you, idiot. Truth be told, my head was in the right place when I made the decision, but as with many of my big life changes, I didn’t research it or think it through nearly as well as I should have.
I left behind the chief pilot slot at my last drop zone because I was tired of the lifestyle. I was tired of all the same things other pilots and working jumpers are. I was tired of weather holds where I didn’t get paid. I was tired of brutally long days and painfully short nights. Five days a week trying to get loads to turn faster, watching the sun come up and go down from the inside of an Otter cockpit, and taking the sixth day to throw drogues for extra money. Living off Top Ramen, cold pizza, and soup; sleeping on a futon mattress on the floor; and scraping change to pay for the gym that I didn’t have time to go to finally got the better of me. Then one morning I woke up and said, “Fuck this,” and got myself a real flying job with Seaborne Airlines.
I traded in cornfields and the same runway day after day for half a dozen new airfields scattered across the beautiful U.S. and British Virgin Islands. I left behind a commute across rural back roads and toll booths for a house just off the beach and a paddle board. I left for the promise of a stable income in the form of a salary and benefits! A paycheck no matter what! HEALTH INSURANCE! It was also in a beautiful spot with lots of time off and a whole lot to see, and for the first six months, it was just about everything I was promised it would be. It seemed like an absolutely perfect move, but then the “real” in “real job” started rearing its ugly head.
Seaborne Airlines had the market cornered for years as the only float-plane operation in the Islands, and they had been doing it well for quite some time. It was an airline to be sure, with a real FAA Part 121 ticket and everything, but it felt more like a DZ than an airline ‘cause it had a bunch of good ol’ cowboys behind the stick. The guys and gals made it work very well though, and life was pretty damn good! Then, like all good things, somebody decided to go ahead and fuck it up. They (there’s always a “they,” ain’t there…) decided that growth was what Seaborne needed, instead of maintaining the solid game they’d been running for years. They decided that the Twin Otter on floats just wasn’t big enough to do the job anymore, so they got Otters on wheels. When that wasn’t enough, they went and bought a couple of Saab 340s to carry more people and go faster. Then the pilots’ contracts got changed and big surprise, the pilots started leaving.
Then all of a sudden there weren’t so many days off. All of a sudden I was back to watching the sun rise and set from the cockpit of a Twin Otter. All of a sudden it was back to 60-hour work weeks that just beat the living shit out of everyone, and back to having to deal with all kinds of crap, yet without some of the benefits of skydiving that I’d lost sight of. The differences between the two professions were becoming a lot less positive, and a lot easier to spot.
When I actually “worked” in skydiving and had a crazy busy week, I had the chance to make a pretty good paycheck. The money with Seaborne wasn’t bad when I was only working 15 or 16 days a month, but when it was more like 20-plus days, it kind of sucked ass ‘cause I didn’t make a nickel more. The environment in a jump ship was almost always fun as hell, and sometimes even included appearances by random titties for extra altitude. The flights to San Juan and St. Thomas were almost always filled with pissed off Cruzans, and if a tittie did make an appearance, it’s only ‘cause it popped out of the two-sizes-too-small shirt of a 300-pound local—and more than likely belonged to a guy. In a jump ship, I didn’t have to say a damn thing if I didn’t want to, but flying for an airline in a craft too small for a flight attendant meant I had to say:
“There are six exits in this Twin Otter. Two doors up front, two in row two, and two in the back. In an emergency, the best doors to leave through are the ones that you entered through as they are the largest and easiest to open. As always, no smoking. There are two fire extinguishers in this aircraft: one under my seat, and one under 5A. The first aid kit is under 5A as well. There is a life jacket located under each seat. If they become necessary…”
Seriously, if I’d wanted to be a fucking stewardess I’d have told the Captains to call me Princess and I never would have given away my pink tutu. I’d come to the realization that, with the exception of starving to death or doing lots of extra work for free, the skydiving world held a hell of a lot more appeal. I may not have gotten to see too much flying over cornfields in Illinois, but flying in the Virgin Islands was worse, because I had to fly over all the amazing places I couldn’t visit because I didn’t have the time or money. I’ve had friends visit islands just next to mine on a few different occasions, and never got to see any of them ‘cause I simply couldn’t get there! Horrible!
At any rate, all of this ranting brings us to the conclusion I’ve finally drawn (one that most of you would have had long ago): Fuck the real world. It’s time that I got back to where I belong, which as far as I’m concerned is either sitting in the left seat of a Twin Otter on jump run, or strapping someone in for a tandem ride of a lifetime. Time to get back to where everything makes a lot more sense to us, and a whole lot less sense to those in the world I intend to leave behind, again.
As of February 14, 2013, I am no longer an airline pilot in the employ of Seaborne Airlines, but instead began working my way toward the Middle East and a seat in one of Skydive Dubai’s Twin Otters! Granted, I doubt there will be any titties popping out there as I believe that’s pretty frowned upon, but with the last year of my life to judge by, I don’t think that’ll be much of a hardship.
So long, real world. Skydiving, it’s be good to be home… I’ve missed you!! [products_mixed layout=”listing” orderby=”ID” order=”asc” ids=”121669,121868″ title=”Get more like this!”]