In Memory of Capt. Joe Toscano

This one is for you, Joe!!

I am dedicating this year's climb to my buddy and mentor Capt. Joe Toscano, God rest his soul, who has passed away four years ago at age of 36.

I first met Joe in the summer of 1994 in Lakeland, Florida when I was just starting out my aviation career and was enrolled in a three month program to become a certified flight instructor. He not only was my instructor and mentor but also became my close friend as I slugged through the program. Joe was a tough instructor but he had a heart bigger and more companionate than I could imagine possible for anybody. He was a kind of guy who would not hesitate to put the interests of others before his own anytime.

Joe loved aviation. He dreamt big. And he acted on it. He graduated from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, one of the nation's premiere aviation schools and went on to become an instructor for FlightSafety International, the world's largest airman training provider. After a stint at a regional carrier, Joe landed on his dream job as a pilot at Southwest Airline flying Boeing 737s.

As pilots, our lives closely depended on our health literally. I can only imagine what it must have been like to be diagnosed with cancer after having gone through the rigor of becoming an airline pilot. However, Joe led by example to show what perseverance was by overcoming the disease after two years of a hard fought battle to return once again to active flight status. 

Even to this day, whenever I face difficult times, I can feel Joe standing by me whispering in my ear "Don't you %$&*ing give up on me, man!" Then everything comes into perspective, like the runways that appeared as I broke out of low overcast clouds on my countless approach to landings on early morning flights.

"To fly west, my friend, is a flight we all must take for a final check." -- Unknown author

We will meet again one day, Joe.