Since Tally One launched back in 2013, I’ve had some great experiences and met some wonderful people through the blog. Pilots from literally all over the world have corresponded and collaborated with me, and it’s always fun to meet those with whom I share both a love of aviation and a love of writing. One of the stand-out characters that has been influential in my blogging and a constant presence on the aviation scene since who-knows-when is Eric “Cap’n Aux” Auxier.
Eric is a Captain for a major airline and has racked up an impressive 22,000+ hours of flying time. Eric’s broad aviation background covers everything from bush flying up North to rum running in the Caribbean (my words, not his!) He runs the insanely popular aviation blog Cap’n Aux and has authored several books (see below.) One of my favorite Cap’n Aux products is his Word on the Ramp (#WotR), a video blog about all things aviation that combines news and humor to provide the ultimate in aviation entertainment. I’m not going to lie; I have laughed myself to tears during a couple episodes of Word on the Ramp.
Those of you who enjoy writing know that November is National Novel Writing Month (dubbed NaNoWriMo for short.) In the spirit of the month, and as a tribute to my fellow authors, I’ll be spotlighting a few select aviation authors whose works are popular in the aviation community and beyond. I got a chance to catch up with Eric (albeit via email due to our busy, conflicting schedules) and was able to pick his brain on a few topics related to flying and writing.
Q: Let’s start from the beginning. Can you give us a little background on both your aviation career and your writing pursuits? Just who is Cap’n Aux?
Hi, Major! It’s great to get together with you here. My name is Eric Auxier (pronounced, “Ox-ear.”) A few years ago, I started the blog, “Adventures of Cap’n Aux,” (capnaux.com), to write about some of the wild experiences I’ve had while pursuing the aviation career. The blog really—scuze the pun—took off, and here I am.
I’ve been writing even longer than I’ve been flying. I wrote my first “novel” when I was six years old: “Little Froggy and the Golden Transmitter.” Six pages long and fully illustrated! I actually had forgotten all about that until I inherited my baby book from my Mom. While I didn’t pursue a writing degree, I did write for the school paper in college and even had my own column.
As for flying, I began flight lessons while in high school. I got my Private Pilot license at age 17, and then the rest of my ratings at Cochise College, in Arizona, of which I’m very proud. It is an excellent and very affordable program. I transferred to ASU (Arizona State University) to complete a Bachelor degree in Aeronautical Engineering while building time flight instructing. My career really launched when I rolled the dice and moved to Alaska to fly the bush, and then to the Caribbean to fly twins, including my first “Captainship,” on a Twin Otter. I have a lot of fun chronicling those adventures on both my blog and as a Columnist for Airways Magazine and AirwaysMag.com.
Just this month, I passed my 26th anniversary with my current airline. While I tend to shy away from naming my employer, as I do NOT represent them in my writings, let’s just say they’re now the world’s largest airline! I hope to retire with them in about 11 years.
I’ve been flying the Airbus A320 series airplane (A319-A321) since the early 90’s and have been Left Seat in it since 2000. And, I have to tell you, I love my “Fifi!”
Q: Most of us in the pilot profession have had a life-long desire to fly. When did that desire begin for you and what made you want to be a pilot?
Ask any pilot how they started to fly, and you will hear a love story. Once much like mine. From as early as I can remember, I dreamed of flying. I still remember verbatim the conversation I had with the pilots on my Hugh’s AirWest flight to California when I was age 8. That dream never waned, and after nearly 40 years in the profession and over 22,000 hours in the air, I am still madly in love with flying!
Q: You have written several aviation-related pieces of literature beginning with The Last Bush Pilots. In addition to your aviation writings, you have published some fiction spy novels. Tell us a little about your currently published works. Are there any projects you’re currently working on that we can expect to see coming out in the future? How can we get a hold of your books?
My second novel, The Last Bush Pilots, has become sort of a “flagship” for me, the one I’m known for. It made a Top 100 spot in the largest category of Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Awards (Mainstream Fiction) and continues to do very well. I get many emails from enthusiastic readers, including many pilots, who loved how I “put them in the cockpit” with me. The book was inspired by my very real experience as a young pilot in Southeast Alaska, and the characters, scenery and situations were inspired by very real people and events.
As for my first book, I began writing Code Name: Dodger at age 14. It’s about a New York orphan who is—surprise, surprise—14 years old. While originally a spy novel, the series evolved into what I call a “Spy/Fly thriller.” A spy series, but with lots of flying. In fact, Mission 3: Jihadi Hijacking takes place on a hijacked A321! All four novels continue to get great reviews. In fact, I just finished the series with Mission 4: Yakuza Dynasty, which the Online Book Club says is “one of the best books I’ve ever read.” Very proud of that series!
As for my nonfiction series, this summer I released Volume 3 of There I Wuz! Adventures From 3 Decades in the Sky. It’s a collection of true short stories written over the years for various magazines, such as Plane & Pilot, AOPA Pilot, Airways, and also my blog. Each volume has several contributing pilot-writers, including one of my favorites from you—Airborne Assassins—in Volume 3!
As for future works, I’m now starting Volume 4 of that series, due out next summer, and finally intend to start the long-awaited sequel to The Last Bush Pilots, called Water & Air. In the meantime, I’ll keep on writing (and making videos) for my blog, as well as Airways Magazine.
Half of all my book proceeds go to the orphan charities, kinshipunited.org and flyingkites.org. They are all available in print or ebook, and several are on audiobook as well, and are available at: http://amazon.com/author/ericauxier
Q: Can you tell us what drove you to become a published author and explain a little bit of your writing process? Where do you get your inspiration?
Great question. While I did originally try to pursue publishing the “traditional” way, the odds of a new author becoming published is literally 10,000 to 1. While I had a few nibbles shopping it to agents and publishing houses, I never landed that fish. So, when the age of eBooks and the Indy Author hit, it turned out to be a perfect avenue for me. I work directly with Amazon and have full artistic control of the product. With my blog, I had a built-in audience of sorts, for all the stories pent up in my head!
Inspiration comes from everywhere. When I first got that idea for my Code Name: Dodger series, for example, I was 14. I thought, “Man, James Bond is so cool! He can do anything. He must have started training when he was a kid!” Then I thought, Hmm…and Justin Reed, the streetwise teen orphan trained by the CIA, was born.
As for The Last Bush Pilots, I came away from my brief stint in Alaska simply brimming over with stories. I was in awe of the spectacular scenery, wildlife, crazy situations and especially all of the larger-than-life people I’d met. That book just spilled out of me like it had already been written!
Ideas come from everywhere, and I’ve become pretty good at spotting them, nurturing them, and building them into something. You can’t imagine what it’s like to create a couple of compelling characters and a situation from scratch, and then see those characters come to life and begin to write their own stories for you. It’s magical!
Q: As pilots, our individual airmanship is shaped by our accumulation of flying experience. As you think back over your aviation career, has there been any singular experience that has influenced you as an aviator—perhaps one that has influenced you more than any other?
There have been many “singular experiences” that have added up to the aviator I am today. That is why I am so adamant about pilots coming up via the “school of hard knocks” route. I am VERY concerned over the trend towards ab initio, where newbies are trained to push buttons on an automated machine, and not really think for themselves. Just look at the difference in outcomes between the Air France 447 and AirAsia 8501 disasters, compared to Captain Richard de Crespigny’s QF32 (QF32.com) or the Miracle on the Hudson. As both pilots have said, the outcome of those incidents depended on the culmination of their 40 years of flying.
Q: In addition to being a pilot/author (and not the other way around…shout out to Zoolander), you are a philanthropist. Can you tell us about how you use your aviation experiences and writing to give back to the community or to inspire the younger generation to pursue a love of aviation?
Thank you for that. As I mentioned, half of my book proceeds go to orphan charities, so you can’t go wrong grabbing one or two! J
As for inspiring the younger generation, that really has been the heart of why I started the blog. I wanted to inspire the “Next Gen” to follow their dreams. I try to do this by both regaling them with tales of adventure, but also delivering a sobering message about the realities and potential pitfalls that this dream may entail.
We’ve come through an unprecedented “rough patch” for basically the past 2 to 3 decades, and it seems we’re finally on the other side of it, with the pendulum swinging abnormally far the other way, now. The “Looming Pilot Shortage” that we all cynically joked about since I’ve been in the biz is FINALLY here, it seems, and I believe our newest pilots will have the best careers since the golden age in the 50’s.
However, this is an extremely volatile business, and that could evaporate overnight, with anything from an economic meltdown, a new war, or a new 9/11. Personally, I was extremely lucky, in both timing and opportunity. It was rough to “climb the ladder” initially, but these past 20 years have been personally great for me. Those pilots hired barely 6 months after me? Not so much. They’ve been artificially stagnated, many still stuck in the right seat, and continue to be. It’s been rough for them, with their expectations being continually dashed. I am hoping these last few years heading toward the finish line for them will make up for all the stress and strain.
That is why I always say, from the FIRST hour of flight training, realize that you are ALREADY “Living the Dream!” Relish every moment, every step of the way, and be content where you are. If all you care about is 777 Captain, then you are in for a miserable life. If you fly for the joy of flight, it will be the greatest career imaginable!
As I say in my videos . . .
This is Cap’n Aux . . . signing off!