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Breaking the rules on Christmas Eve

It happened one Christmas Eve, at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, where I was captain of a 777-300. I looked out the front window to see passengers still running towards their gates, bags of Christmas gifts swinging, children struggling to keep up. I could tell from their posture and motion that they were either out of breath or in tears, maybe both.

My flight level epiphany

In late Spring 1973, almost 44 years ago, I was 22 years old and on the cusp of achieving my life-long goal of becoming a professional pilot. It was an overseas flight with a notoriously-crusty old senior check captain so I was vibrating with anxiety. There would be no remedial training if this guy gave me a thumbs down at this tenuous point in my career.