Friday's Fabulous Flyer
Eric Auxier—better known as Cap’n Aux, is an A320 Captain, author, and as my grandson says, “ a funny guy.” He has found the humor and lightness in life, and believes that there is good in the world and there are many good people doing wonderful things.
He's right—because he's one of them.
Cap’n Aux graduated from Cochise College in 1983, AZ, with an AS in Pro-Pilot and all his ratings, and then from Arizona State in 1986 with a BS in Aeronautical Engineering. While he tells me that he was “blessed with parents who liked to spend money on their kids' education” he built his flight time the hard way—civilian route, paying for it himself.
How fun it is to follow the career path of a professional pilot who chased the dream, and caught it. Cap’n Aux not only filled his logbook with hours, but he filled it with memories and experiences more colorful than most.
“I flight instructed while attending ASU, then flew charters for several years, including Grand Canyon tours. My big break came when I moved to Juneau to fly for Wings of Alaska. From there, I went straight down to the U.S. Virgin Islands to fly for the V.I. Seaplane Shuttle. They flew mostly Grumman Mallard amphibs, but I lucked straight into the left seat of their land based Twin Otter. I flew there till they got wiped out by Hurricane Hugo in '89 (of which I just wrote a couple posts.) From there I went to Rocky Mountain Airways/Continental Express in Denver, where I flew the mighty fun 4-engine Dash 7's for a year before being hired at my current airline at the end of '90.”
His ‘current’ airline happens to be one of my eight, and we had relatively the same hire date. Despite the fact I am one month older than him, he would have seniority on me because I was locked in the training department without any seniority. But unfortunately our paths never crossed.
More than flying, he's an author too! Cap’n Aux is no novice to writing. He was a staff writer and columnist for his school newspapers at both Cochise and ASU. He’s sold several articles over the years to publications such as Arizona Highways, Plane & Pilot and AOPA Pilot. You can imagine my gratitude when I opened the mail to an autographed copy of his novel, The Last Bush Pilots. What a fabulous read. I will be reviewing it soon. But today this is all about the man behind the story.
One of the greatest things about inviting an author to be a Friday Flyer is when they write an incredible story, I can call it the post. Writing is all about voice, and today you get to hear Cap'n Aux's.
Please meet Cap’n Aux:
“I like to call myself an airline pilot by day, a writer by night, and a kid by choice.
I dreamed of flying since before age 5. Riding on a Boeing 737 from PHX-LAX to visit cousins each summer was always the highlight of my year. But even before I learned to fly, I loved to write and draw. My buddy Alan and I would constantly doodle pictures of WWII dogfights through class. I wrote my first “novel,” Little Froggie and the Golden Transmitter, at age 6. It is now available, well, in my mom’s baby book!
At age 14, I read Richard Bach’s, Illusions: Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. It transformed my life. I can still remember a quote from it: “We are all. Free. To do. Whatever. We want. To do.” I have tried to live by that mantra ever since.
Born and raised in Scottsdale, Arizona, I was blessed with the most stable life of anyone I’ve ever known. My parents never moved, never fought, nothing. This stability made for a wonderful childhood, but by the time I turned 18 I was ready for adventure. I kinda went crazy, using my flying dream as an excuse to chase the career all over the country. I’ve lived and flown in Juneau, Alaska, St. Thomas and St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, Denver, Colorado, and Washington, DC, among others.
I now live back in Phoenix with my nearly-grown kids, Desi (21) and Tim (17), so I’ve kind of come full circle. I have an adopted daughter, too, Sheraline. She's now 27, married with two girls. So, technically I'm a grandpa!
Also at age 14, I got my first idea for a novel. I thought, “Gee, James Bond is so cool. He can do all these awesome things. He must have started his spy training as a kid!” And then I thought, “Hmm....”
Ten years later, I finished writing, Code Name: Dodger, about a teen orphan searching for his father’s killer, an evil spy who is also searching for him. The spy is a mole in the CIA, so in order to protect him, they give him all this self-defense and spy training. He’s a street kid, so he’s already developed skills at pickpocketing, computer hacking, etc. So the CIA doesn’t realize they’ve created a little monster!
My new novel, The Last Bush Pilots, was inspired by my very real flying adventure as an Alaska bush pilot. I met so many incredible personalities, heard so many tall tales, learned so much about flying and lived a life so fully on the edge, I just had to write about it!
While the book is a fiction tale, many of the characters and subplots are inspired by real events. For example, the pilots band together and hijack and rescue a load of orphaned bear cubs, and exact divine revenge on the poacher that kills their momma. This tale was inspired when I flew—you guessed it—a load of orphaned bear cubs whose mother was killed by a poacher!
Another real-life experience inspired a scene that sets the theme for the book. An eagle flies over the boys with a freshly caught salmon in its talons. Awestruck, the main character, DC, says, “I’ll take that as an omen.” But then another pilots says, “Yeah. But are you the eagle, or the salmon?”
I chronicle much of my flying and travel experiences in my blog, Adventures of Capn' Aux. One of the most important things I try to impart is to keep the magic of the adventure alive, both on the ground and in the air. So many pilots tend to burn out and become cynical about this extraordinarily brutal business. But, day by day, we are blessed with slipping the surly bonds of earth, putting out our hands, and touching the face of God!
The following is an excerpt from my June, 2011 post:
The cockpit of my machine has afforded equally grand sights and adventures. I’ve seen the full moon rise over the Juneau Icefield, and witnessed a 360-degree rainbow in an Alaskan rain shower. I’ve seen a comet blazing across a moonless night amidst the ethereal shimmers of the Aurora Borealis. The Andromeda galaxy, the farthest object visible to the naked eye, is doubly so from the clear, thin air at 39,000 feet. I’ve seen countless meteor showers, gorgeous sunsets and amazing sunrises.
Lightning storms are incredibly awe-inspiring when viewed from above. I’ve piloted over 250 'flightseeing' trips over the Grand Canyon, each one different and equally spectacular. In the Virgin Islands I’ve spied eery, slate grey waterspouts—tornadoes on the sea—snaking across the water. On countless Alaskan flights from treetop level, I’ve seen moose, bear, eagles, and endless pods of whales, from humpback to Orca to beluga. I once spotted a giant brown bear a few hundred feet below as he took an angry swat at me.
Unfortunately I have scant photographic evidence of these spectacular sights, other than that which is indelibly etched in my mind’s eye.
Life is an adventure. And a pilot’s life is exponentially so. As comedian Luis CK aptly put it, “You’re sitting in a chair . . . in the sky!”
I’ll finish with my favorite inspirational quote of all:
“The world is a Disneyland just for you!”—Cap’n Aux
Now, a special holiday story...
Santa Drops In
"Twas the Night Before Christmas,
When All 'Round the Plane..."
Happy Holidays! And yes... I can doodle!