In Ontario’s civil service culture, employees may combine years of service with age and retire earlier than many in private sectors. Ayers’ enjoyment in his choice of career never wavered and new challenges kept him longer than most. A rabies baiting program, for example, use Twin Otters to drop medicinally prepared pellets to foxes, raccoons and skunks for immunization. The project brought crews on contracts south of the border and arranging airport access, permits and spares fell to Ayers. The travels, he said, especially journeys back to Texas, became what he described as the most satisfying in his career.
Time passed quickly for Ayers. Higher level management finally had to inform him that provincial statutes decreed that he must retire at age 65. His “So soon? I’ve only been here 38 years” could not prevent the inevitable so he departed on April 30, 2004. Without positive plans, he still did not cease flying, and carried out the check rides on behalf of Transport Canada until another opportunity surfaced.
A family of outdoor enthusiasts sought someone to manage and fly their new Cessna Caravan amphibian for business and leisure trips for private fishing camps throughout Quebec and Ontario. Ayers accepted an offer on condition he would not be slaved to a cell phone. The adventure of a new airplane type provided the main attraction and enabled him to continue wilderness flying. So far, his logbook show 20,500 hours including 17,000 on wheels, skis and floats with de Havilland products.
...His remark, “I’d do it all over again, wouldn’t change a thing,” should inspire younger pilots and prove some career choice can lead to satisfaction into senior years.
Story by Robert S. Grant
Photos courtesy Neil Ayers