Jimmy Buffett has been flying for over twenty years now. His love of flying first blossomed when he was in college. A friend of his at the University of Southern Mississippi was a pilot and introduced him to flying. Jimmy had a flight lesson here or there but it didn’t amount to much in the early days. Money was tight and flying is certainly not cheap. As a notable sign found in airports says, “If God had intended man to fly, he would’ve given him more money.”
However, that flying bug stayed with Jimmy. He set the goal of having his license by his 40th birthday. So as more success brought more money, Jimmy was able to resume his flying dream. He purchased a Lake Renegade amphibian and was instructed to his private pilot certification with single engine land and sea ratings just a year shy of his 40th birthday.
Buffett now has a Commercial Pilot License with ratings for multi-engine land and sea aicraft, and an instrument rating for flying in clouds and low weather. He also holds type ratings for the Cessna Citation 500-series jets, the Falcon 50 and 900, and the Grumman Albatross.
Jimmy owns several planes including the Hemisphere Dancer, a restored Grumman Albatross, which was sometimes flown over concert venues. In 2003, the Albatross was retired and put on display at Margaritaville in Orlando. In 2009, Buffett traded in his ’98 Caravan on floats for a 2009 model. He also purchased a 1939 Grumman Goose seaplane that previously saw life as an airliner.
There have also been a few close calls in Jimmy’s flying career. In 1994, Jimmy was performing a water takeoff in his Grumman Widgeon when he encountered a swell in Nantucket and was unable to maintain control. The aircraft nosed over and sank. Read more on this incident. Thanks to Naval survival training (required for a flight in an F-14 that Jimmy took), Jimmy swam out relatively uninjured.
In 1996, shortly after landing the Hemisphere Dancer on the water outside of Negril, Jamaican authorities shot at the airplane mistaking it for a drugrunning seaplane. This incident inspired Jimmy to write the song Jamaica Mistaica.
In December of 2009, an aviation departure procedure named after Buffett was published. The BUFIT ONE Departure is used for aircraft taking off from Palm Beach International airport (PBI) in West Palm Beach, Florida and departing to the south.
Waypoints along the route include JIMEY, BUFIT, PYRUT, FINNS, and UTLEY (named after Michael Utley, Jimmy’s long-time keyboard player).
“The first thing that came to my mind was, ‘What would Orville and Wilbur Wright think about all this,’” he said. “I am honored to be a departure from Palm Beach. I hope it is a path that takes many pilots and passengers on magical voyages.”
Buffett has kept his airplanes at Palm Beach International airport for several years. The route out of PBI to the south is one that he is likely to often take.