Friday, 30 June 2017

Guest Post - “A Day in the Life of a Sea-Plane Pilot” by Paul W.J. Harding - Blog Tour

Flying a seaplane is as unique as entering space. Flying, in all its forms, is an art form that professional pilots thrive on perfecting. Piloting regular land planes is forever a marvel for those of us who ‘sit up front’ in the cockpit. Flying on and off water offers an enthralling dimension that is different on every experience, for our runway moves! We can never take for granted the expected. We are taught to ‘fly the machine, do not allow it to fly you’! Seaplanes have a mind of their own and for some strange reasoning always seem hell-bent on destroying themselves if chance allows, even with the engine silent and sitting serenely at anchor in some shallow water! There are tides and wind and adverse weather to take into consideration. Our craft in the wide open can be dauntingly vulnerable.

I have been maybe more fortunate than most commercial seaplane pilots where my ‘office’ was located in the islands of the Bahamas. Those lucky enough to fly in some of the worlds’ most stunning environments such as Alaska and the Rocky Mountains often pay the price of winter. Days of low ceilings and adverse weather plague those aviators let alone the bitter cold. They are subject to wearing thermal underwear and heavy boots - they even have to wear socks! My islands however allowed a uniform of T-shirt and shorts with flip-flops on my feet to greet my guests. The shoes were quickly discarded and stored in a pontoon compartment, giving rise to the title ‘barefoot pilot’! My runway was the crystal clear ocean water of the Bahama Islands, never cooler than 75F during the ‘height of winter’!

Today would start as most do, very early morning, to ride an aging Honda 700 motorcycle along our pristine coastal road to work. The ocean is flat calm and radiating its brilliant turquoises. I am ramped on a lake in the center of New Providence, for this seaplane has no wheels. There is a ritual of pre-flight where we study all our control surfaces for ease of movement; we check oil levels and fuel onboard. The aircraft is turned about in the shallow water to heel obediently facing the open water. There are no brakes on a straight-float seaplane. When that engine comes to life you are instantly underway. I taxi into the middle of the fresh water lake and with permission from air traffic controllers at the neighbouring airfield I rotate off the flat surface heading to our Out-Islands southeast some forty miles away. Climbing above the small cotton wool clouds I find calm cool air. The scene below is surreal; miles of clear-ocean that Columbus named ‘shallow sea’. The islands I fly over the Exuma Cays, a pearl necklace of islands that stretch 120 miles, an island for every day of the year.

I have been summoned by friend and client superstar Johnny Depp to collect him from his private island to meet a charted jet in Nassau, in order to fulfill an award ceremony in Los Angeles. ‘Good Morning Brother’! He always greets while climbing aboard to sit in the co-pilot seat, obediently adhering to the ritual of drying his feet after paddling through the salty shallows to climb aboard the seaplane. We chat through headsets all the way back to Nassau. I am contacted from my home with a message of urgency for a second flight to another island where a fisherman and long time client has impaled his foot with a large fishhook. The man is in agony as I gently assist him to climb aboard the pontoon and into the cabin. The hook is buried deep within his flesh, making the ordeal of clambering into a small space a painful experience. Help soon followed at the other end. Finally, as I was about to wash the plane after a wet salty day, believing my work was over my phone came alive with yet another plea for help. The Captain of a cruise liner had passengers on board that had received an emergency call from home informing their daughter had been kidnapped in America! Naturally they needed to get home. Refueled, I flew 85 miles to the cruise ship destination island, only accessible by seaplane. Stories so often bombard us as commercial floatplane pilots. The last light fades in the west as I wash the salt from the airframe. Some days are so much longer than others but they are never dull. Yesterday I had found a shipwreck survivor drifting alone in the open ocean clutching a small piece of floatation - just another day in ‘Paradise’!

Thank you so much Paul for sharing that wish us, your life sounds fascinating, and if I ever get a suitable break in my TBR I'd love to read Sharks in the Runway. 

Sharks in the Runway: A Seaplane Pilot's Fifty-Year Journey Through Bahamian Times!

Captain Paul Harding moved with his family to the Bahamas when he was just twelve. He fell in love with his exotic new home immediately and this epic memoir pays tribute to his passion for island life, his ecclectic friends and family, and the extraordinary career he has forged from the sea and the skies.
Paul became a qualified Charter Boaat Captain and Open Water Scuba Instructor, founding the award winning day-trip diving company Diving Safaris, Ltd in 1976. In 1989 he followed this success by ordering a seaplane and learning how to fly; Safari Seaplanes has since become the stuff of Bahamian legend, flying people from all walks of life to sundrenched locations, including politicians and even superstars like Johnny Depp, who Paul counts as a close friend. 
A diver, pilot, captain, husband, father and friend; Paul Harding is a superb storyteller whose tales of island adventures are sure to capture the imagination.

About the author

After being raised and educated in the United Kingdom, Paul Harding relocated to the Bahamas where he became a certified scuba instructor and opened his own business. After a lifelong interest in flying, he earned his commercial pilot’s license and started Safari Seaplanes in 1990, the first charter seaplane business in the country, which he ran for over twenty years. Now retired, Harding currently resides in Nassau, Bahamas and still flies privately.
He has previously written for Water Flying Magazine and this is his first book

Take a look at the rest of the blog tour for Sharks in the Runway. 


  1. Thank you so very much for hosting my book here Rachel! Very kind to give me the exposure! I look forward to readers enjoying the crazy ride I have experienced over the years?! It has been quite the journey.
    Best Wishes to everyone!

  2. I'm looking forward to receiving your book Sharks in the Runway, Paul,


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