Kerry McCauley, pictured on a Zoom call with MailOnline Travel, has been a ferry pilot for 32 years

Kerry McCauley is pictured in a Zoom Call with MailOnline Travel. Kerry has been a ferry pilot since 1982.

Three pilots per year die flying small planes over the North Atlantic.

Kerry McCauley has been working in this job for 32 years and says it’s dangerous.

He reveals the sweaty-palm-inducing scariness of the role in a riveting book – Ferry Pilot: Nine Lives Over the North Atlantic – which recounts tales of Kerry flying planes incapable of flying above storms (as jetliners can) across the Atlantic Ocean for hours on end with only a compass to follow and delivering them to customers.

Kerry, pictured here next to an Aerostar, reveals the sweaty-palm-inducing scariness of ferry piloting in a riveting book - Ferry Pilot: Nine Lives Over the North Atlantic

Kerry is pictured right next to Aerostar. She reveals the terrifying fear of ferry piloting through a riveting book, Ferry Pilot: Nine Lives Over the North Atlantic

Kerry's first job was delivering a Beechcraft Duchess (pictured) – '[which] had two meek 180 horsepower engines that pushed it along at a blistering 150 knots [172mph] ' - to from St. Paul in Minnesota to Lisbon, Portugal

Kerry’s first job was delivering a Beechcraft Duchess (pictured) – ‘[which]It was powered by two 180 horsepower engines, which clocked in at 150 knots. [172mph] ‘ – to from St. Paul in Minnesota to Lisbon, Portugal

Kerry sometimes uses Santa Maria (pictured) in the Azores to break up journeys across the Atlantic

Kerry uses Santa Maria in the Azores (pictured above) to interrupt journeys across the Atlantic.

His first job was taking a Beechcraft Duchess – ‘[which]It was powered by two 180 horsepower engines, which clocked in at 150 knots. [172mph]From St. Paul, Minnesota, to Lisbon, Portugal via St John’s Newfoundland and the Azores. The latter was reached after crossing 2530km (1.570 miles) of water. 

Two additional fuel tanks were installed behind his cockpit, and the HF radio was secured to one tank with bungee cords & duct tape. It was “a portable radio ham radio that was essential for keeping in touch with European and Canadian controllers when communicating across the Atlantic.”

Kerry finally arrived in Lisbon, completely hooked by the exciting adventure.

Perhaps you are wondering what the point is of such a dangerous delivery method. It’s possible to take down the plane, and then transport it using either a cargo plane or a plane.

Kerry wearing an oxygen mask while flying at a high altitude. According to Kerry, the planes that a ferry pilot flies have an average speed of 140 (225kph) to 200mph (322kph) and their altitude ceilings top out at up to 25,000ft (7,620m)

Kerry flying at high altitudes while wearing an oxygen mask. Kerry claims that the speed at which a ferry pilot can fly is 140 (225kph), to 200mph (322kph), and their ceilings are up to 25,000 feet (7,620m).

Pictured is a Cessna 210, one of the aeroplane models that Kerry has flown across the Atlantic. Most of the planes that he has delivered are piston or turbine aircraft – 'almost all of them have propellers'. He has only ferried one jet over the years

Pictured is a Cessna 210, one of the aeroplane models that Kerry has flown across the Atlantic. Most of the planes that he has delivered are piston or turbine aircraft – ‘almost all of them have propellers’. He’s only been able to fly one plane over his lifetime.


Kerry stated that “a ferry pilot” is basically someone who delivers planes to different parts of the planet. ‘Essentially, if someone has a plane that’s in one continent and they’re not stupid enough to fly it over the ocean to another continent, that’s when they call me and hire a ferry pilot.’

It is better to hire a pilot for ferrying your plane via cargo ship or plane than hiring a ferry captain. The main reason planes can’t be disassembled and put together is because they aren’t designed to be. Kerry explained, “It’s an expensive and complicated process that could go horribly wrong very quickly.” 

He added: “Most plane wings aren’t meant to fall off easily. Two plane wings were taken off the aircraft and placed in shipping containers. They weren’t able to be put together because of lost parts or poor maintenance.

Kerry said to MailOnline Travel, “The primary reason is that airplanes aren’t designed to be removed and put back together.” This is a complex and costly process, which can easily go wrong.

The 59-year-old, who lives in Menomonie, Wisconsin, explained that most of the planes that he has delivered are piston or turbine aircraft – ‘almost all of them have propellers’. Over the years, he has only flown one aircraft.

Kerry states that these planes travel an average speed between 140 (225kph), 200mph (322kph), as well as their maximum altitude of 25,000ft (7620m). But most aircraft reach 15,000ft (4,572m) or 18,000ft (5.486m).

Ferry flying is dangerous because of this altitude limit.

Kerry explained that an airliner or jet can fly higher than a plane, which means it can fly through all kinds of bad weather. They can sit in smooth and sunny air, and then they whip along. Propeller-driven aircrafts can’t fly in bad weather, and must withstand all kinds of icing or thunderstorms.

Kerry has flown the Atlantic more than 75 times. He also flew over oceans around the globe over 100 times. Kerry explained that many ferry pilots don’t have enough fuel to get around storms. He said that there was no place else to fly. It can be frightening to have to endure a thunderstorm. Sometimes these storms reach as high as 40,000ft [12,192m]Or 50,000ft [15,240m]These are huge and strong. It was the largest one that I have ever experienced. I flew through it in central Africa, and I couldn’t find any airports other than the one where I was headed. It was also a storm – it was a line thunderstorm, 100 miles long [161km] line. I simply didn’t possess the energy to do it.

Pilots of ferry boats can also face nerve-jamming obstacles such as bad weather. Kerry claims that their number one problem is the malfunctioning of the aircraft’s mechanics. 

Kerry's view of a plane flown by his former boss, Pete Demos, during a ferry delivery. 'We deliver planes to all kinds of places in the world,' he says

Kerry views a plane flew by Pete Demos his ex-boss during a ferry delivery. He says, “We transport planes all over the globe.” 

He stated that jet engines were simpler and safer, so it is less likely they will fail. Piston engines on the other side have many moving parts. They can also wear. You can’t check on them often. You can’t really inspect the interior of moving engines once you have sealed it up. Until then, it is a complete mystery.

Kerry said that if disaster strikes as you fly over the Atlantic it is unlikely that you will survive. Kerry said, “If your plane falls while you are flying over the Atlantic,” you can sail in your rubber raft (if you have one).

A ferry pilot can be affected by what’s going on at the ground. He said, “We fly planes all around the world. Sometimes there can be conflicts and that can cause problems. You can encounter almost every problem in ferry piloting.

Kerry next to a Cessna 402 in Dodoma, Tanzania, after the plane landed in a drainage culvert filled with tall weeds on the taxiway. 'Ferry piloting can run into almost any problem, literally, in the world,' he said

Kerry next to a Cessna 402 in Dodoma, Tanzania, after the plane landed in a drainage culvert filled with tall weeds on the taxiway. He said, “Ferry piloting could run into almost every problem in the world.

A map showing some of Kerry's journeys across the Atlantic - in all, he has flown over the Atlantic Ocean over 75 times and over other oceans in the world over 100 times

Pictured is a map of some of the routes that Kerry has flown solo around Europe and Africa

Below is a map that shows Kerry’s Atlantic Ocean travels. Kerry has flown the Atlantic Ocean more than 75 times and the oceans of the rest of the globe over 100 times. Below is a map that shows some of Kerry’s solo flights around Europe, Africa.

Many ferry pilots are tempted to take on these huge risks. Kerry said that it occurs all the time. “Literally, I noticed that they needed a ferry pilot to complete a trip a few weeks back. He revealed that the pilot was on his way to Goose Bay in Labrador and had said, “nope”, and then he left the plane at the ramp.

Kerry stated that only a handful of ferry pilots make more than one to two trips across the Atlantic. Some pilots pack their stuff in the realization that they are flying over ocean in single-engine aircrafts.

Kerry said that ferry flying is a common way for pilots to get a foot in the aviation industry. According to Kerry, ‘Almost every pilot wants to become an airline flight pilot. They’ll fly a couple of ferry flights and realize that it’s not the best way to make much money or build time. Then they quit. It’s also too dangerous.

Kerry reveals in the book how he survived a crash in the first plane he ever owned - a Twin Comanche he'd bought with some friends. The near-death event occurred as the plane came in to land in Tomah, Wisconsin, during snowy weather. The tail hit the runway before the landing gear and the plane careered off the runway. Kerry is pictured here (left) with the written-off plane and the pilot who was at the controls at the time, Lee Wolfgram. Kerry says Lee's quick thinking at the controls saved his life

Kerry tells how he survived an accident in his first airplane, a Twin Comanche that was bought by him and some of his friends. Near-death occurred when the plane was coming in to land at Tomah in Wisconsin during snowy conditions. Before the landing gear, the tail struck the runway and the plane flew off. Kerry (left) is seen with the plane that was written off and Lee Wolfgram, the pilot. Kerry believes that Lee’s rapid thinking saved his life.

Pictured is Kerry's former boss, Pete Demos, who ran a ferry pilot company. Most pilots do ferry flying 'as a stepping stone to further their aviation career', according to Kerry

Pete Demos (Kerry’s ex boss) was the former owner of a ferry company. Kerry states that ferry flying is a “stepping stone” for pilots who want to progress their aviation career.

“It’s dangerous and they often get killed, so very few people stay on the job for long.”

Kerry has written a book filled with tales about plane accidents and missing ferry pilots over the Atlantic. He dedicates it to the friends and colleagues in the industry who ‘never made it home. It was really difficult, he said. It’s hard sometimes dealing with the loss of close friends that I have lost over the years. But he said that it was part of being a ferry pilot, which is a high-risk profession.

“You all know that you are going to lose your friends, and we accept it.” If you can’t accept it, you stop doing it. When you lose someone, you can take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. [the fact]They were passionate about what they did. Their lifestyle was what they wanted and it became part of their lives. It is important to remember that they were our friends, which allowed us to share the joy of flying with them.

Kerry was in some close situations himself. According to Kerry, the nearest he came to an “imminent collision” was while transporting a Piper Aerostar between Arizona and Larnaca (Cyprus). The plane’s wings and engines, as well as the propeller spinners, began to collect ice while he flew over the Alps in Switzerland. He had to reach the summit, but the weight of the ice made it impracticable to climb.

Kerry's book, scored with tales of plane crashes and ferry pilots who went missing over the ocean, is dedicated to his friends in the industry 'who never made it home'. Pictured is the wreck of Jim Bell's plane - one of Kerry's late pilot friends

Kerry’s book is filled with tales about plane crashes and ferry pilots that went missing across the Atlantic. He dedicates it to those in the industry who ‘never made it home’. Kerry’s pilot friend Jim Bell, whose plane was destroyed by a storm is shown here.

Kerry revealed that the closest he was to an 'imminent crash' was when he was ferrying a Piper Aerostar from Arizona to Cyprus. As he was flying over the Alps near Zurich, Switzerland, the plane started picking up ice. Pictured is the icing on the plane's spinner

Kerry stated that his closest encounter with an imminent crash was while transporting a Piper Aerostar aircraft from Arizona to Cyprus. The plane began to pick up ice as he flew over the Alps, near Zurich in Switzerland. The icing that was on the spinner of the aircraft is shown in the picture.

Over a Zoom chat, he said: “At 19,000ft [5,791m]It had stopped literally climbing. [it]He was looking to fill up on ice. He eventually decided to make the descent. In the book, he describes how he reacted to the situation. “Out of both airspeed and options, we reluctantly eased our yoke forward. We traded some altitude for few knots of equal airspeed. This is an agreement with the devil, but one that I must make. He managed to get into warm air so the ice began melting. He said, “It was very close,”

Kerry also lost his fuel on the 12-and-a-half-hour journey from Newfoundland, Canada to Paris. This was a chilling moment. The author explains how the fuel supply tube to the ferry tank wasn’t properly secured so that it didn’t exert enough pressure. He said, “It wasn’t until then that I realized just how isolated I was.” The route I took from St. John’s, France to Paris was far more south than the usual routes that airlines take when crossing the Pond. And I knew there were no other ferry flights. I can say without exaggeration that no human was within 5100 miles of my home. That moment, I was literally alone in the entire world. “It would be great to have been half way to the moon.”

He managed to pushurise steel tanks using only his lung power and spent hours blowing into the air supply line. MailOnline Travel said that he had to pump on the ferry tank eight-and-a-half hours in order to keep it running. He was able to land safely at Paris Airport Le Bourget despite all odds.

Ferry tanks in a Cessna 402. One of Kerry's most dangerous flying experiences occurred when the air supply tube wasn't secured properly to the ferry tank in a 1994 Beechcraft F-33 Bonanza

Ferry tanks on a Cessna 402. One of Kerry’s most dangerous flying experiences occurred when the air supply tube wasn’t secured properly to the ferry tank in a 1994 Beechcraft F-33 Bonanza

Kerry is not afraid to go through these nerve-wracking experiences, no matter how terrifying they may sound.

He replied, “I don’t panic nor get scared really in those situations.” It’s not going help, so I just put it aside. It’s not worth your time to panic if it means you have more time for productive work. It’s been my motto since childhood. Let the panic go for now. The shakes are okay when I am on the ground. I tackle any problem that I see in the air and find the solution.

Has he been inspired to take up commercial flight after all his years of experience? While Kerry has never sought out a job at an airline, he does some corporate flying on the side – but finds that, after the drama of ferry piloting, it’s ‘too easy’.

One of the planes that Kerry ferried.  According to the pilot, the 'thrill never goes away' with ferry flying

Kerry flew one of these planes.  Ferry flying has a ‘thrill that will never go away,’ according to one pilot. 

“You are in a beautifully maintained business jet. At 45,000 feet, you’re at the top [13,716m]You are safe from all storms and other hazards. The air is calm, quiet and peaceful. You can access your Facebook account from it. You could even be doing this in a plane!

Commercial pilots seem to be effected by the daring feat of ferry piloting. He explained that you will be viewed as crazy by some airline pilots. Some say they look down on you as if you are flying a stupid little plane. They actually look up to most of you. It’s like they’re saying “I can’t imagine doing that!”

“They are shocked when they discover what goes on with ferry flying. And a lot of them are, frankly, a little jealous because they don’t… flying an airliner isn’t an adventure, it’s a job. Although it is a wonderful job, my friends who are also pilots have little to no problem with it. However, they would be quick to point out that it is a job. He stated that it’s not difficult like ferry flying.

Kerry names the Egyptian pyramids - shown here from his cockpit - as one of the most memorable landmarks that he's flown past

Kerry considers the Egyptian pyramids (shown here from his cockpit) one of the most iconic landmarks he’s seen.

'Buzzing the pyramids in Egypt was pretty cool. Seeing the pyramids from above and a little below - I was a little below the tops of the pyramids when I buzzed them. That was pretty stunning,' Kerry said

The experience of buzzing around the pyramids in Egypt is quite amazing. The pyramids were seen from both above and below. I was slightly below their tops as I buzzed them. Kerry described it as “pretty amazing.”

'I hate boring flying,' Kerry revealed. Pictured is his stunning view of Narsarsuaq, Greenland, from the cockpit during a ferry delivery

Kerry stated, “I don’t like boring flying.” This is Kerry’s stunning view from his cockpit while he was delivering ferry passengers.

A view of forest in Africa from Kerry's plane. According to the pilot, the biggest storm he ever encountered was in central Africa. 'It was a line of thunderstorms, a 100-mile [161km] line. I just didn't have the fuel to go around it,' he said

Kerry’s airplane shows a view of Africa’s forest. The pilot said that the worst storm he had ever seen was from central Africa. “It was a line storm, about 100 miles long. [161km] line. He stated, “I didn’t have enough fuel to do it,” 

Kerry’s passion for the challenge is what has kept her in the business for so many years. It’s what I love to do. “I love adventure. I also love being on my own, completely by myself and having to survive without help,” he stated. He said, “That’s what I was made to do. It’s to face all of the obstacles and battle the elements. Boring flying is not my favorite thing. 

Kerry names the Egyptian Pyramids among the most iconic landmarks that he has seen. “Buzzing Egypt’s pyramids was cool. The pyramids were seen from both above and below. I was slightly below their tops as I buzzed them. It was absolutely stunning,” he stated.

He has yet to visit Antarctica from his cockpit, but it will be on his bucket list. 

The pilot plans to take his Beech Queen air, his own plane to Antarctica, via South America and Caribbean, then return to Wisconsin via Central America. 

He stated, “I must see Antarctica sometime before I die.” He said that he had to pilot the plane. The passenger does not count. Anyone can do it.

Does the exhilaration of a career defined by excitement fade? It does, on an easy flight. The thrill of ferry flying is never lost.

Kerry McCauley was the author Nine Lives Over The North Atlantic: Ferry Pilot. His second book, Riskaholic is due out in the summer. Kerry’s website has more information.