I’m having too much fun. My second contract flying opportunity began with a repositioning flight on the 23rd. Philly to Burlington, VT. The repositioning trip is predictable and easy. I have it down. I park in the same remote lot and catch a shuttle right to the security line in terminal F. 

Wednesday, October 24th: This morning we flew up to Canada, then onward to Raleigh where we’d remain until 4pm.

Ben is a Jedi Knight on his phone, as most folks his age are. Walking to the crew car, he had Yelped us a restaurant close to the Raleigh airport in a matter of seconds.

Over lunch, we talked about his career plans, and the need to position himself to eventually have more free time. There is so much going on in his world, he can find it difficult to go spend time with his friends. He doesn’t complain about anything – just gets it done. That’s all good when you are 29, but you don’t want to be this committed at 60.

We had a great conversation and I think we both took something positive from it. I think he left thinking that time off needs a higher priority, and I know that I left thinking maybe I need to light a fire and develop further professionally. He gave me ideas on how to expand this contract flying business I’m into, and I am feeling motivated!

Back at Signature’s FBO, we had several hours to kill before the next leg at 4pm. I settled into the lounge, recharged my devices, and did some blog writing. Eventually I closed my eyes and took a very brief nap there.

Ben got moving about 3pm to ensure that the bills were all paid; coffee refreshed; and the airplane ready to go. I tried to follow along without stepping on his heals, making an effort  to take on more of the mundane tasks to make it easier on him. I’m watching and repetition on these flights with him will help me get better at anticipating what is needed.

Norfolk was our next stop. The flight was less than 30 minutes, where the owner would catch up with a friend for the night. We’d be leaving the next day for Canada around 4pm. Had I known we’d have a full day of hanging around, I might have packed jeans for the trip. It worked out fine anyway.

Securing the airplane in Norfolk, we agreed to drop our gear at the hotel and head right out to dinner. Ben had jokingly assigned me the task of picking a place for dinner that night, and I took the task seriously. Using Yelp for the first time, I found three highly rated sushi places and found out he like sushi as well. All of these places ended up less than a mile from where we’d be staying. Mission accomplished.

The Japanese beer and sushi was amazing. Returning to the hotel, Ben had paperwork to do and asked me to submit a bill. Since I had no official format for billing, I found one I liked from an Excel template and sent PDFs over for this trip and the last. After that – I finished a novel I brought with me and called it a night.

Thursday, October 25th: I am an early riser and went downstairs for coffee around 6:30. The Hilton had eggs there that didn’t look terrible, so breakfast was accomplished by 7:00.  I brought two coffees back to the room with me, and thought about exercise. We weren’t flying out until 4pm, so there was time.

After catching up on the phone with Beverly, I got a text from Ben inquiring about breakfast. I confessed to having eaten, but went with him looking for fruit and more coffee. Ben would be leaving to catch up with his friends in Oregon as soon as we got home, and we talked about that for a bit.

Checking out of the hotel, we drove into downtown Norfolk to tour the city. We were walking around the battleship Wisconsin while I was thinking that this is a very nice way to spend my retirement. Our conversation was interrupted as Ben got a call from a contract pilot that works for him. The call was to let him know that the pilot suddenly had a pressing engagement he’d forgotten about, so he would not be able to complete an on-demand charter flight he was scheduled for.

That meant that instead of enjoying a few hours walking around, he had to spend that time on the phone trying to cover that trip. I learned about on-demand charter scheduling, cost structures for charter flights, and the constant demands running a business like this puts on you. He either has to get someone to cover the trip at more than double the cost, or decide to defer the start of his own vacation another day so he could fly it himself.

While this was going on, he had also found a spot for lunch – Jack Brown’s beer and burger joint. This was a small place that reminded me of Tootsie’s in Nashville. The waitress / bar tender was a shapely blonde with a pleasant face and gentle demeanor. I’m absolutely sure her jeans were sprayed on. There was no chance of getting a salad with a burger on it here, so I ordered a burger and fries and planned to enjoy them. Ben put his order in, but had to excuse himself to continue tracking down replacement flight options. His lunch arrived and was most likely cold by the time he got to it.

We had time, so we walked over to the Douglas MacArthur museum to see what they had to offer. Ben had inquiries out and would take the occasional call as we walked the exhibits. It was coming down to him deferring his vacation by flying the trip himself, or paying more than twice the amount he’d agreed to charge his customer to replace the trip. I encouraged him to pay the difference and prioritize his vacation, and just then his pilot called back and changed his position. He’d been doing the trip after all, and Ben’s distractions for the morning had been unnecessary.

So the day was more relaxing for me than for Ben, but at least things were back on track. We got back to the airport and prepared the airplane for the flight back to Canada.

We were planning to leave at 4:15 pm, but that time came and went. The boss arrived about 20 minutes late. I had the ATIS and clearance ready and we buttoned up and got ourselves airborne. The landing in Montreal was windy and turbulent, but Ben did a great job. No hand flying for me on this trip, but I’m sure that’s coming. At this point I have about 30 right seat hours in the jet, 10 landings, 2 instrument approaches, and one taxi experience. The 200 hours in simulators doesn’t hurt either.

Crunched for time to catch my flight, Ben flew the last leg as well and flew us in expeditiously.  Once we were down, we knew our time was tight. Customs in Canada was a phone call, but customs in Burlington took a little longer this time. With my return flight leaving at 8:00, I had about an hour to get to the other side of the airport and through security.

Customs complete, we left the jet in the mechanic’s hands to put away, and zipped over to the terminal. I found my gate, only to see that the flight was already gone. Either the departure time was moved, or we had gotten it wrong at some point.

I wasn’t looking forward to driving home at midnight, but it would have been nice to catch the flight. I have a simulator session tomorrow that starts around noon.

Another burden for Ben: I felt bad calling him back to the airport, but that was the plan I was given if I’d missed my flight. I want to see him go on his vacation, and not have to babysit one more detail of his business. He came back to get me and apologized unnecessarily on the call. By the time I was in his car, he had new airline reservations for me and a hotel for the night. Amazingly flexible and efficient.

I expected to be dropped at the hotel, and then go next door to eat on my own. Ben wouldn’t have any of that, and instead took me to a very nice steak place for dinner. The menu shows various $50 steaks to chose from, but I just wasn’t $50 steak hungry.  I settle on a much smaller option that turns out to be just right. The food is fabulous and the waitress is the prettiest thing I’ve seen since lunch in Norfolk. I haven’t paid for jack shit this entire trip either, so my expenses would be easy.

The responsibilities Ben takes on to make the owners flying go smoothly are endless. He is working very hard, and at the moment, I’m reaping some of those benefits too. My flight home would now be non-stop to philly in the morning.

Friday, October 26th: Good Morning Vermont.

I woke up around 4am to ensure I’d get through security on what is bound to be a busy morning flight. Typically, contract pilots would charge for the extra travel day, but I had no intention of doing that. I enjoyed myself too much and my travel arrangements actually improved.

Greeting the TSA person, I was given a laminated pass. This meant I’d require less scrutiny today, and was allowed to leave my computers in the bag and my shoes on my feet. Why I’m less of a threat this morning, I have no idea. I’ll take it though, and get through to the other side in seconds.

I’m gonna need coffee, so I decide to stop at the Skinny Pancake for breakfast. They are out of hash browns, and have has purples instead. I have no freakin’ idea what this girl is talking about, but I accept her invitation to be adventurous and order eggs and purples. They look like purple hash browns, but are made with beets instead of potatoes. Not bad at all!  The coffee was excellent, and that is really what I was looking for.

Support System: Everyone needs support from time to time. I’m having the time of my life, and it only works because people are behind me. In this example, it’s Beverly as always; Ben for the opportunity; Scott, my boss at work; Mike, my counterpart instructor at work, and probably others I’ve forgotten to mention.

My boss, Scott, at FlightSafety knows I’m out on a trip and scheduled to work the next day. I have a later start assigned that would have worked out, even with the delay.  My friend Mike, figured out ahead of time I might not be getting back in time, so he worked with Scott to switch workdays with me. Beverly keeps my world moving and encourages me to stay busy and enjoy myself.

Beverly and my friends are circling around me to help me go out and play. Pretty damn good feeling.

Future Contract Flying: It seems like Ben wants me to be a regular, and so does the leasing client. I’m very excited about that and think this one client might be all that I need to be doing for now. For them, I’m closer than everyone else current in the Westwind (west coast and Texas) and it’s much less expensive for them to get me to Vermont from Philly. I’ll also be a more reliable contract pilot that has fewer connections required in my commute.

Going forward we talked about split legs to deepen my experience, including the left seat. He even talked about bringing me up a few days early so he and I could go practice without people aboard. This is an amazing opportunity and I’m very excited about it.

Putting me in the left seat – we’ll get three take-off and landings, and do a few approaches to get me comfortable in the jet as PIC. After that, we’ll routinely switch legs with the client in the back. OMG – this is the coolest thing ever. I would have PAID for this experience, rather than BE PAID.

N833DF: The final riveting went well this week and large bills will be rolling in. N833DF won’t be ready next week, but it is very close. If Bev is ok at home when I get there, I may drive to the beach to take a look and to get my 496 out of there. The battery has to be dead by now, and unchargable. I’ll reactivate Sirius on it, and get a new battery before go time.

The custom made parts guy also is sending me a bill, he says, and I have no idea what it costs to have a Wallops Island / NASA rocket maintenance guy custom build and heat-treat aluminum parts for a 1967 airplane. ewwww….. So now this money falls out of the sky within weeks of all this coming down. Wow. God is looking out for me, and I don’t deserve this.

I have every intention of flying up to Vermont in my airplane to put some time on it, and to get familiar with the route. It would be my intention to commute with it and be able to avoid the airlines.

Health Developments: Bev’s first checkup with a new heart doctor up north went just fine. No symptoms and no problems. My 6 month cancer screening was the most intense ever and just a little embarrassing as two women looked everywhere for spots. Apparently, they missed skin cancer of the rectum on a patient of theirs, and they don’t ever want to let that happen again. They are more familiar with me now.

We did find a lump in my chest, but it’s on the right side of my body whereas the the cancer I had was on the left. They tell me it is highly unlikely to be related, but I see a surgeon in the next week or so to have it biopsied and/or removed. I’m sure it’s fine. It’s also time for my 10 year colonoscopy, so the fun will continue for the next few weeks. Update: I lost allot of sleep worrying about cancer and losing my medical just as my airplane comes back and this contract flying it taking off. I’ve had a serious cancer before and the FAA sent me a letter to discontinue flying the minute something surfaces. As of the time of my writing this – the lump has been removed and we have every reason to believe it is benign by the look and feel. Pathology in progress.

Fly safe!   I can’t wait to get back to the jet.


By fdorrin

Recently rated Gulfstream 280 pilot, working on instructor qualifications. WestWind and Astra corporate jet flight instructor. Contract corporate pilot. Own and operate a PA30 Twin Comanche. CFII; MEI; ME-ATP; SES; Typed in DHC-8, B-25, IAI-1124, IAI1125, G100, G280. Retired engineer / executive - Delmarva Power, Conectiv Energy, and PEPCO Holdings, Inc.