“Flying is a lot like playing a musical instrument; you’re doing so many things and thinking of so many things, all at the same time. It becomes a spiritual experience. Something wonderful happens in the pit of your stomach.” ― Dusty McTavish
This latest interview tells the story of Brian Loftus, Grosse Ile Township supervisor, former pilot, and longtime resident of Grosse Ile.
How long have you been a resident of Grosse Ile?
My wife, Ann, and I have lived on Grosse Ile since 1987.
What is your first memory of living on Grosse Ile?
My earliest memory is sitting at Lloyd’s with my wife, drinking an ice tea, and reaching a final decision on buying a house on the Island. I was raised in the metropolitan Detroit area and was familiar with Grosse Ile, but my wife was not. We decided that if we were going to settle down in this part of the country, Grosse Ile was going to be our home.
What was the Island like when you first moved here?
We moved to Grosse Ile during the housing boom of the mid-1980s. The Island was experiencing tremendous growth and available housing was hard to find. This is a stark contrast to the period we have just gone through when so many houses on the Island stood vacant.
The look of the Island was greatly changing. Macomb Street was experiencing a major facelift with new sidewalks and the relocations of the Township Hall and the Post Office. This was the period of time when the bike paths that we all enjoy so much today were added.
The Island airport was also a lot busier. While more people are flying today as passengers on commercial airlines, the amount of private plane traffic has significantly declined. FAA regulations are much tighter today, and it takes a lot of money to own a private plane.
Have you ever lived anywhere else?
As I mentioned, I grew up in the metropolitan Detroit area. My parents moved from Detroit to Inkster in the 1950s, and that is where I spent my youth. From 1970-1974, I attended the Air Force Academy in Colorado. From there, I traveled to Georgia to attend flight training school for several years.
It was while I was in Georgia that I met my wife-to-be, Ann. I was just back from a long deployment flying to England, Spain and Germany. Upon my return to the Robins Air Force Base in Houston County, Ga., I decided to relax and visit the Officers Club. In the club were several of my fellow pilot friends and three young ladies. I knew all of them except one young lady who instantly caught my eye. As they say, the rest is history as Ann and I dated for a few years and eventually married in September 1980. A few years later, I was a father to a son and daughter, Patrick and Kate.
What is your favorite memory of living on the Island?
One experience really stands out for me. I was driving around the Island looking at the conditions after a fairly heavy storm. Driving down one street I noticed a man with a chainsaw cutting up a tree that had fallen across a driveway. I stopped and offered to help him clear his driveway. He politely declined my offer and off-handedly remarked that it was not his driveway. He was just helping a fellow neighbor out. That really left a lasting impression on me, and it gives you an indication about how people look out for each other on Grosse Ile.
Is there an interesting story that you could share about your experiences as a pilot?
Flying always fascinated me. As a young man, I loved hot rods and motorcycles, but flying really captured my heart — and I could make a good living doing it.
I had quite a bit of experience flying. I was a military pilot from 1975 to 1994 and a commercial pilot for FedEx from 1982 to 2012 — a total of 37 years of flying. Throughout my career as a military and commercial pilot my goal was to keep my flying as safe and uneventful as possible.
My longest military flight was in a LTV A-7 Corsair II from the U.S. mainland to an airport near the St. Andrews Golf Course in Scotland. The flight required the squadron to make a series of maneuvers and took 7.5 hours to complete. To pull this off required that I refuel my jet seven times while I was in the air. That is a difficult maneuver to do once, but seven times was a challenge, especially when you are exhausted. The refueling maneuver is difficult because your aircraft speed is decreasing as you are taking on the weight of the fuel at the same time the refueling aircraft is speeding up because it is getting lighter as it empties its tanks. So, you are constantly adjusting your speed and flight angle. Flying as a fighter pilot is especially exhausting because you can’t get out of your seat, walk around, and stretch your legs like a commercial pilot can.
Flying for FedEx also had its challenges. The life of a commercial pilot is not for everyone. I flew through some very rough weather, and I did most of my flying at night. I would typically leave on Monday morning to fly to wherever my airplane was parked. I would fly all week, ending my shift on Saturday, and then head for home. I had the following week off, but I would spend much of that time in the reserves at the Selfridge Air National Guard Base. I figured I spent an average of 108 days a year at Selfridge.
Any final thoughts?
Those years as a military and commercial pilot were a lot of fun, but time moves on and so have I. I no longer fly, but I do have plenty to do to keep me occupied. As the Township Supervisor, I enjoy the challenge of providing services to the community despite our shrinking budget. As an amateur historian, I love to delve into the stories of the Island including the dredging of the Livingston Channel and the function of the channel lights. It still amazes me that every ship that travels the Great Lakes enters that channel and comes in sight of the Grosse Ile Lighthouse. Finally, I am enjoying all that comes with being a grandfather — it is one of the most enjoyable and satisfying things I have ever done in my life.