Cape Air pilot Jameson Hilliard. 

Jameson Hilliard remembers his first time on an airplane, when the pilot invited him and his brother to look at the cockpit.

What began as a childhood fascination has become a career for Hilliard, now a pilot with Cape Air. But his journey took him many routes before landing with the airline. He has also managed a flight training program and delivered new planes to customers.

No matter the job of the time, Hilliard was just happy to be living his childhood dream, soaring the open skies. For the Iowa native, earning a spot with Cape Air last September was the best possible scenario.

While flying small planes might not seem as impressive as commandeering a massive jetliner, Hilliard is happy with the opportunities offered by the airline. His flights are all round-trip, meaning he starts and ends each day at home; he has more direct contact with passengers; and, there are plenty of chances to move around the country and up the corporate ladder.

What one sees most with a smaller airline, such as Cape Air, is a sense of family and teamwork. Everyone from pilots to baggage handlers to ticket counter employees work together to ensure things run as smoothly as possible.

“To me, it’s really satisfying,” Hilliard said. “That’s one of the coolest things about working for an airline — that teamwork and being a part of it. I just wish the passengers could see it.”

— Adam Testa


Cape Air uses exclusively Cessna 402 aircraft, which are now out of production. The 10-passenger vessels cruise at 170 mph at altitudes between 4,000 and 5,000 feet. A typical flight from Marion to St. Louis takes 45 minutes.

The airline operates a fleet of more than 60 aircraft with up to 850 flights a day in high-traffic season, earning it the title of world’s largest Cessna 402 operator.

Flip Book

This book contains maps and instrument-only approach guidelines for all public airports in Illinois and Wisconsin. If the weather is bad and visibility is low, pilots can use these maps to plan their landings. The book is open to the page showing Williamson County Regional Airport in Marion.

Bound Book

This book, specific to Cape Air, covers detailed information for all airports used by the airline, such as where to park the plane, baggage handling locations and contact information for local airline officials.


While many associate a pilot’s headset communication with air traffic controllers, it also allows the pilot to remain in contact with airline officials. Pilots are able to make special arrangements for passengers, such as having a wheelchair available at the terminal or arranging for a shuttle to be on site to help a passenger make a connecting flight. ‘A lot of customer service requests go through the radio,’ Hilliard said.


These engine controls are known to pilots as the ‘throttle quadrant.’ The two knobs on the left are the throttle, which acts similarly to an accelerator in an automobile.

The middle levers, the smaller ones with black handles, are the propeller control knobs. These change the pitch of the propeller blades to gain efficiency in flight.

The red knobs on the right are the mixture controls, which affect the ratio of fuel and air mixture.

Most Cape Air flights are single-pilot operated, and the front seat is usually filled by a passenger. There are exceptions, though. All pilots starting with the company, no matter their experience, must have a co-pilot for their first 100 hours of flight time.


Up to nine passengers can fly on any given Cape Air flight. While the Midwest has become a new hub for the company, the airline was built around its roots in New England. Last year, Cape Air carried more than 650,000 passengers, making it the largest independent regional airline in the U.S.


Bird’s Eye View is Cape Air’s in-plane magazine, featuring the destinations that it services. This issue focuses on St. Louis.

Weight Calculations

Large airlines use average weights for passengers and luggage when boarding, but with smaller planes, such as a Cessna 402, precision is more of a necessity. Each passenger is asked for his or her weight upon check-in, and then a computer program creates a weight ratio chart like this one used by pilots.


Instrument Panel

A. Commonly referred to as a ‘six-pack,’ these flight instruments provide basic flight information. These meters monitor things like speed, altitude, navigation and attitude, the angle of the aircraft to the horizon. These tools enable pilots to safely navigate the open skies.

B. These devices are called ‘avionics,’ used primarily for navigation and communication.

The left stack features an audio control panel, a Garmin 430 GPS equipped with a two-way radio, and a back-up communications radio.

In the middle is a weather radio, allowing pilots to navigate around rough spots of weather.

On the right are two transponders, which send out information to air traffic controllers.

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