How I Ended Up Tipsy With a Machete, in Nassau’s Odyssey Airport Security…


I was at a pilot’s safety meeting last night at Jacksonville’s Craig Airfield. The topic was “Flight Review” and I listened to a flight instructor talk about how “fun” it is to practice landing after losing an engine at takeoff and to “touch and go” with cross winds: all part of the Flight Review process and designed to prepare pilots for emergency situations.

You may ask why I was at a pilot’s meeting.

Fear not. I was there because Steve Merritt of Bahamas Habitat was speaking about mission flying. But I saw my old buddy Joel, and we reminisced about the 100 or so flights the two of us took to The Bahamas together.

Here are some of the highlights of  my flights with Joel as pilot and me as drunk passenger (mind you I always drank on the flights – even early morning – and he knew because the air circulates and you can smell it):

1. Joel fell asleep on a flight home from Staniel Cay after a long weekend.  We were high above the Exumas on autopilot. He was snoring and I tapped him on the shoulder and said, “My GOD Joel, are you asleep?” He yawned and said, “No Mare Mare, I’m just resting my eyes…”

2. I was on a King Air with a bunch of folks and Joel was reading the newspaper while piloting – we hit an air pocket, dropped a hundred feet or so, and he startled and threw the paper and a coffee cup to the side and said, “I guess I better start driving this thing…”

3. We were flying from Staniel to Jacksonville and I was bored so I asked, “Joel – what would happen if you died?” He said, “It’s on autopilot Mare.  You’ve got enough gas to get to Tallahassee.  By then you better learn how to land this thing.”

4. We cleared customs in Nassau one fine day.  I had drunk a few wine shooters on the way.  When we got to Odyssey Airport Joel acted black – he shucked and jived, high-fived and as we cleared customs he took orders for pumpkin pies from the ground crew. The entire time a shiny new, sharp machete sat on the top of our stack of luggage and supplies. I was taking it to Staniel to cut back the morning glory vines. As we left to get back on the plane Joel did one of those complicated, multi-part handshakes with the customs officer, called him “Homey” and “My Man” and no one said a word about the fact we’d brought a weapon into a crowded airport…

I won’t tell you about the time Joel drove one of my golf carts into the Exuma Sound. That’s a story for another day. Suffice to say bush pilots are (drunk or sober) the coolest guys ever. Safety in deed.

Today I’m not drinking because safety is foremost in my mind.

How come you’re not drinking?