James Hausaman used to make frequent trips to Grand Cayman when he was a young pilot flying cargo from his native United States in the late 1970s.
But little did he know all those years ago that this tiny speck of land in the Western Caribbean would come to feature so prominently in his life. After all, the island is where he would meet his wife, raise a family and work for more than 30 years building a career as a commercial airline pilot.
Mr. Hausaman, who rose to the rank of captain in 1992 after joining Cayman Airways in 1982, called it a career on Thursday after piloting his last flight for the national flag carrier of the Cayman Islands – the second leg of a roundtrip jaunt between Grand Cayman and Miami.
Several dozen family, friends and colleagues lined the tarmac at Owen Roberts International Airport as Cayman Airways Flight 103 touched down about 12.15pm in what amounted to a curtain call performance and retirement ceremony for a 64-year-old seasoned aviator who had logged millions of miles in the sky and flown tens of thousands of passengers.
The plane was ceremoniously saluted by a shower from an airport fire truck as it taxied back to the terminal and, after all of the passengers had deplaned, Mr. Hausaman emerged from the cabin door to loud applause and cheers as he walked down the steps from the Boeing 737-300. On the ground, he was met by handshakes and hugs. Cameras and smiles were aplenty.
“I want to thank you all for coming out, really,” Mr. Hausaman said as he reached the bottom of the steps. “I’m going to miss all of you. I thank the public, the people, they make Cayman Airways. I thank all of my colleagues. Everybody has just been great. We all work together to make it work. Right from the honey bucket driver, right to the top.”
Born in Peoria, Illinois and raised in Boca Raton, Florida, Mr. Hausaman learned to fly from a private instructor and earned his commercial pilots license in 1968, coincidentally the same year Cayman Airways was established and began operations. He also became a licensed aircraft maintenance technician and later flew freight throughout the Caribbean and South America for British West Indies Airways and, later, cargo carrier Rich International.
Mr. Hausaman also was employed at this time by Airtech Services in Miami where he worked on one of the airplanes shared by Costa Rican airline LACSA and its partner Cayman Airways.
“I was doing mechanical work when I met [former Cayman Airways pilot Wilbur] Bing [Thompson],” Mr. Hausaman said. “He’s the one who hired me. I knew him from the late 1970s because I used to work on his airplanes. Other than that, I flew DC-6s and DC-7s. I used to come in here all of the time with the Foster’s Food Fair food back in the late 1970s. That was before I was at Cayman Airways.”
“Then I flew corporate for Helmsley-Spear Inc., Leona Helmsley and Harry Helmsley, for four years out of New York,” he said.
After leaving New York, Mr. Hausaman returned to Miami and it just so happened that Cayman Airways was in the market at the time for a first officer on the BAC 1-11, an airplane model with which he had become quite familiar. Mr. Hausaman interviewed with Bing Thompson and Jim Bodden, the former Cayman Islands government minister for tourism, aviation and trade, and was hired.
“I started with Cayman Airways on 27 April, 1982,” he said. “I started on the BAC 1-11 and then progressed to the [Boeing] 727 and then onto the [Boeing] 737s and that’s what I finishing up on, the 737.”
Shortly after arriving in Grand Cayman, Mr. Hausaman met his wife, Janet Clifford. He had two sons from a previous marriage and another with Janet. All three are engineers who live in the United States.
“It’s been overwhelming all week,” Janet said. “They had a party for him in Miami on Monday, a surprise party. Tuesday night, the flight attendants, the pilots and maintenance also had a party for him. We went to Miami [Thursday] morning and they had the fire trucks up there also. Everywhere we go there is just a real outpouring of love and sadness.”
“We’re going to take it easy for awhile,” she said. “His mom and dad are still alive. They are 90 and 93. We’re going to spend more time with them. Our boys live in different areas in the US and we’ll be visiting them more often.
“We spend all our time together when he’s not flying,” she said. “So, now we’ll spend a lot of time together.”