Flying has been my dream since before I can remember... literally. My Aunt Odette tells me that when I was three years old, she took me with her to the Port-au-Prince International Airport to pick someone up, and when I saw an airliner up close for the first time, I excitedly yelled out, "I want to drive that!" I don't recall that event, but it serves as evidence that my fascination with flying began at a remarkably young age.
My first memory of wanting to fly came a few years later at the age of seven. I was on my very first flight, from Port-au-Prince to New York City, where I was going to start a new life in a new country. I remember looking at all the people boarding the airplane and wondering how that "big silver bird" was going to get us into the air (that silver bird was an American Airlines Boeing 727). To this day, the whole experience is vivid in my mind: being greeted with a smile by the captain at the aircraft entry door, the funny feeling in my stomach as the plane accelerated down the runway, leaping into the air, and my utter disbelief that we didn't drop out of the sky! I was mesmerized by it all, and by the time the plane came to a stop at our gate, my dream had been born... I wanted to become an airline pilot. I have been blessed to be living that dream since 1999. It's a dream from which I hope never to awaken.
This is the story of the lifelong journey I have taken in realizing that dream. I invite you to come along with me as we go from my birth in Haiti to the present day, as I live my dream every day. You will come with me as I move to America at the age of seven, a country I knew nothing about and whose language I didn't speak, a land that would truly prove to be "the land of opportunity". You will feel my sense of wonder and bewilderment growing up in New York City, trying to understand my new world. You will face my struggles to fit in with the kids in the housing project where my family lived for a decade as Mom and Dad saved money to buy a house. You will meet my parents, who encouraged my dream of flying, and my fifth grade teacher who helped me to see that it was possible not only to dream it, but also to achieve it. It's a story of potential fulfilled, and my family's sacrifices to get me through college and flight school.
You will fly with me from my first lesson to my first airline job as a copilot, to the day I earned my four-stripes and first heard someone call me "Captain". You will sit with me in the captain's seat as I fly an airline jet over Haiti for the first time, looking down from thirty-eight thousand feet onto the land of my birth where my dream had been born. You will soar with me over the majestic Amazon jungle in Brazil, over the desert-flanked Nile River in Egypt, and the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. You will fly with me through New York City blizzards, Indian monsoons, and Arabian sandstorms. You will travel with me on adventures to Europe, South America, the Middle East, South Asia, the Caribbean, and other parts of the world I used to dream of going to as a child; places that have affected me profoundly and where I left a little part of myself.
I have seen all these things through the eyes of the seven year-old boy from Haiti that I was and in many ways, still am; the little boy who had a sense of just how incredible the world and life are, who dreamt of a life of worldwide adventure, and was blessed to have his dream come true. That is the reason for the title of this book, "The Seven Year-Old Pilot", because even after years of flying around the world, in many ways, I still feel like that little boy, and I always try to approach my travels and my life with his sense of gratitude, amazement, and awe.
I truly believe that every one of us has life experiences and lessons worth sharing that can inspire, enlighten, teach, and benefit others because we have all lived through tragedies and triumphs.