Climb West, Unrestricted.

Today was the first time I put my uniform on for a purpose other than duty. Flight duty, that is.

I said long ago somewhere in this blog that if you spend enough time in aviation you will likely know someone who has died in its pursuit. Today I pressed my uniform with the sharpest possible creases, tied the neatest double windsor I could muster, and donned it to pay respects to a man I never actually met.

He was a man that wore the same uniform, and many others in service to our country. A man that by all accounts, loved this country, loved flying and loved life. A man whose friends spoke of him so affectionately, I’m convinced I would have liked him a great deal.

I labored over the decision to attend the memorial for the last week or so. Other men have passed from this earth who’s services I did not attend. Names on a seniority list. Some local, some not. I knew we would be well represented by other men and women wearing our uniform. So why go? There’s a story.

Several years ago, as a newish captain for this company, I had the opportunity to work with his wife. Another name on the list I had never heard of, which is not at all uncommon. We were tasked to fly down to a maintenance facility and bring back an airplane. The details of the events before the flight are not particularly necessary to the moment, suffice to say it started out as a pretty bad day. In those difficult moments, his wife, my First Officer, had my back. She didn’t have to. She didn’t know me either. I was just a name off the same list. While we debriefed the absurdity of what had transpired, I asked her for honest feedback (Was all that my fault?), and she supported my position. That meant a great deal to me.

Our flight home was pleasant and uneventful. She spoke warmly of her husband, and of the adventures they’d had together. At that moment in my life, I remember thinking that they seemed like a nice couple, a lot like us. A brief connection to normalcy at a time when that was a thing I needed.

I would not expect her to remember that. Or me for that matter. We see a lot of faces in this business, and end up with a lot of weird stories. Remembering someone you worked with on one flight five plus years ago is not something I would expect. I, however, remember. I felt that coming today, to honor the man she loved, and a man that touched so many people, was my small way of saying thanks.

I didn’t know Andy. But I wish I had. he sounded like a hell of a guy.

Climb West, unrestricted, Sir.

Godspeed.

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