s I glanced down the parallel taxiway of JFK’s Runway 31L, the idea that this would be the very last time began to resonate in my psyche. The thought wasn’t debilitating by any means, but the concept hadn’t really taken hold until that moment. No more 777. No more trips to Heathrow. No more Cat III approaches. No more copilots to shoulder the burden. No more in-flight espresso. During idle moments flying across the North Atlantic, I had spent the past five years contemplating this particular day. I pondered trivial items, such as the destination of my last trip, my copilot selection and the ensuing celebration. Now that the day had come, my trepidation was more about how emotions would affect the trip rather than regrets about retiring early. Many colleagues had questioned my sanity. Thirty-four years of seniority. A comfortable salary. A premier airplane. My choice of the chicken or the beef. Why give it up? Many factors were involved, but simply stated, it was time. I could feel it in my gut. Although I still loved the visceral challenge and skill required to maneuver a 775,000-pound machine, the task had become more about managing than about flying. Even with the autopilot disconnected, a regular routine I practiced on takeoff, climb, approach and landing (much to my copilots’ dismay), my efforts were just a surrogate to the reality of sending electronic signals to a computer. And that was OK. But the repetitive nature of the airline routine was becoming tedious. A great career had become a job. So, I could slog out an enviable job to the very end or say goodbye on my terms. For me, it was not a difficult choice. I was leaving on a high note. I was fortunate to have enjoyed over three decades as an airline pilot with only one uniform change. I sat in the left seat for almost 28 years, 21 of those years in wide-body equipment. I spent a gratifying period as a check airman. Although not part of the heavy lifting, I was a background union volunteer. I had exposure to a cadre of professionals whom I admired and respected. And I completed a final recurrent training period of which even I was satisfied with my performance.