Background photo by Greg Hinson

If you’re a good sailor, you become an extension of the sailboat. If you’re a good pilot, you become an extension of the airplane.

I learned to fly at Chatham Airport in 1977, between college years at Wesleyan University. I came back after I graduated and worked at the airport as a flight instructor and mechanic, and I met my wife, who was a chef at the Impudent Oyster in Chatham. We got married in ’86 and bought our house in Harwich the same year. Even though I was working in Chatham, we couldn’t afford to buy there—we could afford to buy in Harwich. Our neighborhood in North Harwich is a very blue-collar, working-family neighborhood—it was then and it is now. We love the neighborhood, and we love the town.

I’ve flown across almost the entire North American continent at a very low altitude—below 5,000 feet, and in some cases just 1,000 or 2,000 feet, really being able to look at everything. And I don’t want to say there’s no place like home, but there’s no place as beautiful and diverse and accessible. Cape Cod is a unique and special environment, and we need to protect it.

• • •

Cape Air might be one of the last examples of an airline started by aviation entrepreneurs. I was around in the mid-1980s, when Texas Air was gobbling up Eastern Airlines, People Express, Provincetown-Boston Airlines. It was shortly after deregulation and the airline industry was going through this tumultuous change. I was part of a small group of people here on the Cape who were passionate about aviation, and we happened to be here during that volatility. It’s a challenging place to run an airline because of the seasonality and because of the weather. We understood the seasonality, and because we grew up flying here, we were good at flying in this environment. We first started by flying between Provincetown and Boston in 1989 and have grown the airline in a very organic way. We’ve never borrowed a lot of money or taken a lot of money from investors. We started with one airplane. Now we have 72. We started with six of us. Now there are 1,000 of us.

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Jeff is the Managing Editor for Cape Cod Life Publications.

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Wychmere Harbor, Harwich