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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Captain Balsey DeWitt

Balsey Lives! 

Story by Emilio Corsetti III: 

"So here's the scenario. It's 1970. You're in a DC-9. You've been flying three-plus hours from New York to the Caribbean Island of St. Maarten. Most of the flight has been over water, and the weather you have is over three hours old.

As soon as you get into radio range, you call the St. Maarten tower to get a weather update. The weather you receive is marginal but above minimums for the only approach available, which is an NDB approach to runway 9. The tower operator reports thunderstorms in the area.

You do some quick fuel calculations and estimate that you will land at St. Maarten with 6,000 pounds. In a DC-9 that's enough fuel for one or two approaches and then off to your alternate of St. Thomas.

In the descent, you get a message from San Juan Center that the weather in St. Maarten is below minimums, so you ask for vectors for San Juan Puerto Rico. You're well on your way to San Juan when you get a request from San Juan Center to call the tower operator at St. Maarten. You make the call and learn that the weather has improved and is now above minimums. What do you do now? You do some more mental gymnastics and determine that you will land in St. Maarten with 4,400 pounds. That's cutting it close, but you still have enough fuel for one approach and a divert to St. Thomas. Do you really want to tack on another hour of flying and several hours more duty time diverting to San Juan if you don't have to?

The pilot in this post, Captain Balsey DeWitt, decided to head for St. Maarten. He wouldn't make it to St. Maarten or any other airport. ALM Flight 980 would end up at the bottom of the Caribbean Sea, and Captain DeWitt would never pilot another commercial aircraft again.

Technology and automation have made flying safer, but we still have to make some tough decisions now and then. If you want to stay out of the chief pilot's office and the news, go the safe route.

If you would like to learn more about this story, you can get the eBook version on the Kindle for just 99 cents for the remainder of this month. If that's too much, head on over to Goodreads and enter for a free giveaway, also ending February 1."

Emilio is a master of writing 
Nonfiction Aviation stories

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene


  1. Thanks Karlene for the post. I must point out, though, that Balsey is still very much alive. We still stay in contact.

    Thanks again,

    1. Emilio, I am so glad to hear he lives! This is why I have to read the book... Pulled me in. I thought the only reason he would never pilot another plane. Okay... please tell him I am so glad he lives!

  2. Karlene... I assume this means Balsey died? I flew with him at ONA.
    Ron Hart

    1. Ron... you are correct. He lives. I didn't read the book and Emilio is such a good writer... I was thinking that was why he never piloted another plane again. I am so glad I can give him life again! Edited the blog. Thank you!

  3. I'm really sorry to hear of Capt. DeWitt's passing. I would have liked to meet him in person, but at least I got to speak to him. As far as I'm concerned, Sully Sullenberger has nothing on Balsey DeWitt.

    1. Unknown... he is alive. My mistake. When I return home... I will read the book! Please know... he lives. I just thought that was why he didn't fly again. Now, I can't wait to read this... sounds like an amazing flight!

  4. Someone should ask him why he flew at a much lower altitude than the computer flight plan called for, made several approaches ( dirty ) never made the announcement " BRACE FOR IMPACT" The PA system was working , as testified to by previous Captain, and in perfect order. This guy just did not like talking on the PA in any circumstance...I know...I flew with him many times and on that particular route... His First Office, Harry Evans, who Balsey was responsible for having him fired one year prior, was in the right seat on his first flight back with the company after a year off....ALPA got his job back on a technicoloty . Must have been one wonderful flight sitting next to each other....Dis anyone mention that Harry Evans inflated a 25 man life raft inside the aircraft at the foward entry doorblocking then exit...he eventually deflated it by stabbing it withna plastic knife....nobody mentions these facts


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