A high-speed emergency stop on the runway at Cayman Brac, with the future premier on board, was the most hair-raising experience of a long and distinguished career for veteran pilot Peter Schmid.
The Cayman Airways captain hung up his flying jacket last week after more than three decades in the cockpit.
In more than 24,000 hours of flying time, the Swiss-born pilot, says there was just one incident that left him shaking at the controls.
As the plane accelerated toward take-off on a clear day in Cayman Brac, a warning light alerted the captain to an engine failure, forcing him to bring the aircraft to a screeching halt inches from the end of the runway.
“The most ridiculous situation I have ever experienced in an aeroplane was that rejected take off at very high speed on a very short runway at Cayman Brac,” he said. “That was one of the very few times I have ever had the shakes after a flight.”
He was reminded of that moment during his retirement ceremony last week by a telephone call from Cayman Islands Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, who was one of his passengers that day.
The premier was among a host of dignitaries, colleagues, family and friends to pay tribute to Mr. Schmid as he touched down at Owen Roberts International Airport in Grand Cayman for the final time.
The Swiss-born pilot signed off in style as his final flight was greeted with a water cannon salute on Tuesday. In retirement, he plans to continue his passion for travelling. But he admits it won’t be easy being a passenger after so long in the captain’s seat.
“It is a bit unnerving,” he said. “As a pilot you know every normal sound the aircraft is supposed to make, so when you hear sounds that don’t quite fit, you start to get nervous. And when you see the flight attendants assuring you that everything is alright, that’s a pretty good sign that something is not alright.”
Mr. Schmid, who is married to a Caymanian, started working at the airline in 1979. He remembers getting reprimanded for being late on his first day.
“I was never late again,” he said.
In more than 33 years at Cayman Airways, Mr. Schmid served on the BAC 1-11, Boeing 727-100 and 200, Boeing 737-200, -300 and -400 flights, as well as flying the inter-island service on the Britten Norman Trislander.
He held the position at Cayman Airways as chief pilot from 1993 to 1997 and was director of safety and security from 2006 to 2008.
He lives in West Bay with his wife of almost 42 years, and they have one son. He is active in the community as a member and past president of Rotary Central, past chairman of the Junior Achievement Programme, and he officially represents Switzerland as honorary consul to the Cayman Islands.
He hopes now to renew his flight instructor’s licence for small aircraft and get involved in teaching the next generation of pilots.