I had the pleasure of flying across the North Atlantic with Margrit Waltz in mid-October 2011. I’d read about her on the internet and through various magazine articles and knew of her record of performance: 700+ Atlantic crossings, a long, prestigious, and continuing career as a Ferry Pilot, and her over 21,000 hours of flight time. Having spent 20 hours in the cockpit of a King Air C90, I got to know her pretty well, and feel that the success of Margrit Waltz is not based on her Atlantic crossings, long career, or her amassed flight hours. These results are merely fruit that gives good indication of the health of the fruit-bearing tree. Her personal character and the manner in which she carries herself in the aviation marketplace is nothing short of impressive. Margrit simply exudes a passion for aviation and people who like airplanes. There is no pretentiousness in her approach to her profession and no apologies for her unrelenting dedication to a lifestyle that few in this world would be able to endure, much less thrive. She is a one-of-a-kind person in a few-of-a-kind career. If there was ever a person that needed to write a book, this woman is that person. With that long intro, here’s the the “take-away’s” I got from Margrit on what it takes for a person to succeed as a ferry pilot.
Passionate about airplane and airplane people: The cool part of this picture of Margrit is the fact that she is sitting in the back of the airplane. That’s right…she let me fly the whole trip in the captain’s seat while another pilot flew in the right seat. A lesser person would have not done so. Pilots are almost instinctively control-sensitive. I don’t even like riding in the back of a car because I feel like I don’t have control over the situation. It could have been because she was nice or friendly or oblivious to risk, but I believe Margrit gave up her rightful front left seat on this Atlantic crossing because she wanted to share her love of flying in a way that was truly meaningful. Lots of pilots go flying, few get to cross the Atlantic as the PIC. It is a pleasure that Margrit understands and I sense she simply wants to share this feeling with others…to impact others lives with experiences that have moved and shaped her.
A people person: Simply put…Margrit knows EVERYONE at every airport over the Atlantic and everyone loves Margrit. She went completely out of her way to meet, greet, engage in meaningful conversation, and generally give respect to everyone from the line guy to the FBO owner. Time and again I saw her going out of her way to make sure others were involved in her life. She treats the line guys like kings and they all take care of her as their queen. It is a symbiotic relationship for sure, and one that has allowed her to thrive in a tough environment.
She’s a talker: I’m not dogging her with this one…and I’m not meaning she doesn’t know when to shut up. I mean she is VERY good at telling stories verbally. She told great flying stories from the U.S. all the way to Europe and I just kept wanting more. She jam-packs more living in one year than most would in a lifetime. She has some of the best flying stories…bar none. I’m a fairly seasoned aviator and usually feel good about chiming in with my flight experiences, but around Margrit I just sit and listen. Around her I’m out-classed from an aviation standpoint and go into receive-mode quickly. Many pilots have the same experience over and over. Not her. She’s flown just about everything and been just about everywhere. If you get the chance, make sure to ask her about these stories: Diaper dumping, ferrying pregnant, the royal wedding, heavy ice on the wings, landing at Narsarsuaq in fog, how she became the “Mooney-girl”, C-421 troubles in Goose Bay, infant passports, J-3 from the US to Africa, an so many more. I won’t steal her thunder here…but simply say she needs to write a book!
Support system: Although I only met him briefly, it became obvious that Margrit’s husband is one of those special people that works in the background out of the limelight on tasks that are rather boring, but absolutely critical. Unquestionably, Margrit could not do what she does without a devoted teammate and her husband is that rock. I see this frequently in the most successful people in all walks of life.
Adapt and overcome: In my military experiences, the best of the best are almost always the ones who have the ability to adapt and overcome. The best plans are obsolete the minute the first bullet flies and the best people then have the ability to adapt to the changing conditions and still accomplish the mission. I see this ability in Margrit. This is not a dare-devil sort of “against all odds” mentality that throws caution to the wind. Rather it is a recognition that the mission must be accomplished and it must be accomplished safely. Considering the risks and then mitigating the same risks while accomplishing the mission…that’s what she does. A ferry pilot, by very nature, assumes some very high risk profiles: long hours, unfamiliar aircraft, dramatic changes in forecast weather, unfamiliar airports, changing logistics far from home, different languages, and the list goes on an on. A ferry pilot that doesn’t have this ability? Well, they become a statistic or quit. She’d probably call it luck, but I don’t believe it is. She simply has the ability to adapt and overcome.
Well, in case it has not come across well…I’m a huge fan of Margrit Waltz. Hopefully, I’ll get to fly with her again in the near future. If I do, it shall be my pleasure…