Our Son Has One of the Most Dangerous Jobs in the World

The Boy Flies!
The Boy at 16

The Boy has just embarked on a new journey. He has accepted one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.

He is now an Alaskan bush pilot (I suppose we should now call him “Captain The Boy”).

This is something he has wanted to do for a long time, and though I’m beyond-words proud of him for realizing a dream (and working extremely hard for it), I am not thrilled by this turn of events at all.

Our son, The Boy, built a plane out of plywood. GypsyNester
Talk about passion: He built his own plane at age 10!

The Boy began flying at thirteen and I fully admit to trying everything I could to stop him from pursuing it.

But his passion for flying soon made me realize that I would be wrong to let my fear and selfishness get in the way of my child’s dream.

I’ve since learned that parenting and comfort level rarely peacefully coexist. And he is an adult, so it is not my place to make decisions for him – as much as I’d like to.

When he graduated college and his buddies spread their wings to start working at airlines and cargo companies, The Boy continued his crazy talk about bush piloting in Alaska or Africa. With that goal in mind, he stayed on at the college as a flight instructor for a year to build up his flight hours.

When he applied for the Alaska job, we were visiting him at his home and he and David — knowing I was going to freak out — sat me down and tried convince me that I needn’t worry. Yeah, right.

After all, they said, flight instructing has to be more dangerous. You’ve got novice kids behind the… Wait. WHAT?! Nobody told me about the hazards of instructing, but then again we do have a pact to not discuss those sort of things in front of me.

Flying into Bethel, Alaska

Captain The Boy’s new job requires him to live in a town that is only accessible by air.

He then flies people, food, medical supplies and mail to areas also only accessible by air.

Bush pilots are truly a lifeline to many.

The scary part is that the airstrips (in the places that have them) are primitive and the weather conditions are hardly ideal. And it’s really remote. And huge animals venture out in front of the planes. And… I really need to stop Googling “bush piloting dangers.”

As a mom who is fear-and-guilt based, a product of my seriously old-school Eastern European Catholic upbringing, if something goes awry I’m going to blame myself forever for letting him fly in the first place. What kind of mother allows their kid to become a pilot?

I spoke to The Boy’s big sisters, The Piglet and Decibel, about my fears while visiting them last week and they both assured me that it would have been wrong if I hadn’t let him fly – he would have been miserable. They are really proud of the man their brother has become and applaud his adventurous spirit.

Headed out of Bethel, Alaska to visit the Yup'ik villages
David and Captain The Boy, head to a plane he pilots in Alaska

Like my daughters, I need to learn to do more applauding and less fretting.

My worrying does no one any good, and I’m positive that The Boy would love to start regaling me with his adventures rather than convincing me of his safety constantly.

On the plus side, he works a two-weeks on/two-weeks off schedule with jumpseat privileges, so he can easily meet up with us, visit his sisters, or fly off to exotic destinations with his pilot buddies during his free time.

To deal with this new situation, I’m going to act as if all of his time is his free time.

Yeah, like that’ll work.

Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See what happened when we visited and flew with The Boy to the remote villages in Southwestern Alaska!

YOUR TURN: Would you allow be thrilled if your son became a bush pilot? Any suggestions to help me overcome my fears?

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24 thoughts on “Our Son Has One of the Most Dangerous Jobs in the World”

  1. Let your son know that if he ever needs aircraft parts in the Valley that Glacier Aircraft Parts has his back. They have great customer service and fill orders quickly, plus the staff is beautiful and friendly to talk to. They’re located in the wonderful mountainous small town of Palmer, AK. 🙂

    1. When I worked there we shipped parts out to villages all the time so if he needs anything they are really reasonable on prices also.

  2. I used to work with a woman whose daughter and son-in-law were Coast Guard search and rescue pilots who asked to be transferred to Alaska (when she had just become pregnant) because they wasted to master the toughest flying conditions! Luckily my friend wasn’t raised Catholic so she managed not to freak out and it all went well and they enjoyed the experience! Now the daughter is learning to investigate crash sites and the son-in-law is the only test pilot in the world for some new experimental aircraft being developed so it could get worse! He’s living his dream so try to be happy for him (says this non-mother)!

  3. That’s a tough one for sure, but the bottom line is we all want our kids to do what they do best and what makes them happy in this life. My son is 30 years old, an attorney and I still have the mom worries – but just in general. It’s inherent. It’s what we do. And let’s face it, they’d be lost without us! 😉 I think soon you’ll look forward to hearing his stories because you’ll know he’s doing what he loves. And what a great service he’s doing for others.

  4. I moved from Sydney, Australia to Dawson City, Canada – my parents think I’m insane (although they’ve known it for years) and my mum has seasonal freakouts: first the cold, now the bears.

    Living here for the past few months, I can say this – If it’s REALLY bad weather, the planes don’t fly. Remote also means that he will probably only be flying when it’s light outside and his trips will only be several hours; which, in my opinion, is significantly safer than flying for 16 hours in the dark over numerous time zones and not a lot of sleep in between shifts.

    More people doesn’t necessarily mean better people – I guarantee you that the towns folk would be more mechanically capable than any city bloke! And he’s trained for landing in all sorts of situations so I’m sure he will be able to figure out a bit of dirt and gravel 🙂

    He’ll be fine… and so will you!

  5. I’m not even a parent and I’m not thrilled about it.

    I can understand the feeling of “Oh no – WHY!? Why can’t you just have a normal civilian job!?” but I totally respect wanting to be supportive.

    I’m sure all will be fine. Never know, he could decide it’s too cold there and just become a regular pilot, much less dangerous by the sounds of it..

  6. You have to let them follow their dreams but you’re allowed to worry. My son’s hobby is jumping off mountains with a special parachute. I daren’t look at his Facebook page.

    1. I can totally see that Anne! And, yes, I’m sure I’ll continue to worry, I just need to stop jumping every time the phone rings. Now I’ve got to check his Facebook page…

  7. We spend so many years working and most people hate their jobs – good for him being so passionate about being a pilot! And unlike many young people, he’s always known what he’s wanted. Good for him! I hope he has a very long and happy career.
    Frank (bbqboy)

  8. Veronica,
    Look at it this way, more car accidents on a daily basis
    Verses airplane accidents! If he had a desk job he would be driving more! Let him live his dream as you are doing today, life is too short! He will be happy!

  9. If Captain The Boy had opted for a big city desk job, that might have been more a case of the apple falling far from the tree, than his chosen career as a bush pilot. 😉 Still, moms are moms. Kiddo, you don’t expect me to be “happy for you” that you bought a motorcycle, right?

  10. I feel your pain. My son has wanted to be a firefighter since he could walk and talk, and though he hasn’t realized that dream quite yet, he has spent some time volunteering. He has moved to Colorado to try firefighting and possibly become a wildfire firefighter. I try my best to encourage without “freaking out” as my kids would say. Sigh. Not easy.

    1. Jill – thanks for sharing. It’s hard, huh? Wildfires – yikes. I always try to remember that the training for these kind of jobs is extensive (as it should be). Best to you and your son – and hang in there Mommy! -Veronica

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