Retirement of the baby boomers has caused quite a ruse about when and how to retire sensibly. Many of these b-b’rs are finding out that what had coveted for so long is turning out not to be what they expected, so structured retirement has suddenly become a buzz-word. That is, they ease out of their job and take their time finally retiring all together. Evidently many of these new retirement age workers were suddenly stricken with remorse over leaving and asked to return. Thus began the phase out method of retiring. All kinds of arrangements are being entered into relating to compensation. Some even draw their full retirement, and add on by working part time, sometimes doing the same thing they did for 40 years.
For this aging old pilot/rancher/farmer, my airline retirement came about quite abruptly. Age 60 was the mandatory retirement age for pilots. I understand that since my retirement the mandatory age has been raised to 65 with a few caveats. The fact back then was you must not be in the cockpit as pilot in command by midnight + 1 minute of your birth date.
So it was that on the night before my day to retire I had been out on a 5 day trip and all throughout the entire 5 days my resourceful co-pilot Mike Lyden alerted the air-traffic controllers along our paths and at our nightly destinations that this was the Captain’s last trip and many, many radar controllers were laudatory in congratulating me on my career as a professional pilot. I had provided some Captain’s discretion assistance to some of the tower controllers in Billings Montana, by refusing to bump them out of their once a year cockpit ride in order to let 2 line pilots occupy the seats since we were full up with every seat in the entire aircraft taken. Consequently about 2 weeks after I retired here comes this huge package in the mail from the tower crew in Billings, Montana. It included photos of my last takeoff from Billings, and the neatest map of the USA with a mini depiction of every airliner aloft at that given time with a exclamatory note of our airplane. It is displayed proudly on my memory wall in my home office. I am indebted to the wonderful controllers who keep us safe in Billings Montana.
On the last night of our 5-day trip we came through Minneapolis and I picked up wifey Mary Ann and took her along on a short, short layover of 9 hours in Spokane Washington.
The next morning I seated her in the jump seat right behind the Captain’s seat. It was against the rules but what the heck it was my last trip? The weather was awful, near 0-0 in fog. So Mary Ann got to witness an actual instrument takeoff. I put a set of earphones on her and she could hear all the banter with the air-traffic-controllers all across the country.
The weather at home base of Minneapolis was severe clear and it was a real extraordinary experience for Mary Ann to see the actual approach and landing. I tried my best to make a squeaker landing in that old Boeing 727, but as luck would have it the tires and concrete met abruptly.
As we neared our concourse and gate the fire trucks came out and stopped me. They then let loose with their fire-hoses onto my windshield for a ‘wetting-down’ of a Captain’s last flight. As we parked I could see this huge crowd through the windows at our gate. Mary Ann and I were the last to leave the airplane for the last time and as we entered the gate area there was this huge crowd of my friends and family with music playing and this giant banner saying: “Congratulations Captain Krueger on Your Retirement.”