Flying high with Buccaneer author MayCay Beeler
MayCay Beeler still hosts Aviation Update on WFMY News 2 but has come a long way since 1985, when the station brought her to Greensboro to replace Sandra Hughes at PM Magazine. An accomplished aviator as well as journalist, author and T.V. personality, Beeler has logged over 4,300 flight hours and spends most days in the air as Chief Flight Instructor for the Triad Aviation Academy at PTI Airport. She’s also written the Amazon bestseller Buccaneer: The Provocative Odyssey of Jack Reed, Adventurer, Drug Smuggler and Pilot Extraordinaire. “Not bad for an old fly gal,” said the woman who looks more fly than old. Beeler wrote Buccaneer both with and about the flamboyant renegade flyer and Medellin Cartel associate, having become close friends with Reed before his death in 2009. She met him when he was still serving his 23-year term for conspiracy to distribute cocaine and operating a criminal enterprise.
“I contacted Jack Reed in prison as part of my research on a documentary I was producing about Norman’s Cay in the Bahamas,” she wrote in an email.
From 1978 to 1982, Norman’s Cay was the center of the world’s largest drug smuggling operation and a tropical hideaway for Medellin Cartel co-founder Carlos Lehder. Jack Reed flew drug runs for Lehder, who handled transport and distribution, while Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar handled production and supply. Reed was also Lehder’s best friend and, Beeler believes, received a heavy sentence primarily in retribution for refusing to testify against him.
Beeler wrote that Reed refused to talk to anybody until she gained his confidence. “Jack’s infamous story had never been given to any other journalist.” She wrote that she came to know him exceptionally well. “He disclosed his deepest secrets to me, with previously untold info about his unconventional adventurous and hedonistic lifestyle, as well as details about the drug smuggling operation.”
When asked how they became so close, she wrote that it was “a gut feeling” that began with “the shared bond between the outlaw pilot, and the lawful fly girl.” Beeler called Reed “a true adventurer, hedonist, lover and non-violent offender with an edgy yet tender soul” who “lived an unconventional, provocative and storied life.”
Beeler was born in the D.C. Metropolitan area and grew up in the Baltimore suburbs. From a very early age, she wrote in an email, she “enjoyed writing, acting, a love for the wild blue yonder, and a strong desire to an astronaut.” After graduating from the University of Kentucky in her early 20s, she appeared in T.V. commercials as spokeswoman and on-camera talent.
“In my very first T.V. commercial,” she wrote. “I was the Lexington Dodge girl, pitching cars in a cowgirl outfit.”
Following that, she was hired to appear in many more T.V. commercials “thanks to various advertising agencies noticing me and liking my personality.” A colleague suggested that she audition for PM Magazine as co-host for the nationally syndicated weeknight T.V. show with local hosts in major cities.
“I was hired and it changed my life,” she wrote. “Gifting me with the opportunity to travel the world.”
In the following decades, Beeler worked in various T.V. markets in all on-camera roles in News and Programming, including news anchor, weather anchor, reporter, and T.V. host. All of these positions entailed writing news and features.
“Buccaneer is my first true crime book,” she wrote. “But I previously wrote hundreds of features and news stories for network affiliate television and have also been published in dozens of magazines.”
I asked this FAA Certified Flight Instructor how she first earned her wings.
“General Aviation Manufacturers Association contacted selected T.V. Personalities around the nation with the opportunity to learn to fly for free through First Solo, in exchange for documenting the training on T.V. and sharing the progress in T.V. features with viewers,” she wrote. She accepted the challenge, but admitted that she was “initially scared to death.” Soon, she “got bit by the aviation bug and fell in love with flying.” She wrote that over 30 years later, she is still smitten.
She’s flown with retired Brigadier General Chuck Yeager and Voyager pilots Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, competed in a transcontinental air race, jumped with the U.S. Navy Seals, flown mock air combat over Southern California and holds a world record for piloting the Questair Venture Aircraft, a high-speed experimental kit plane developed and test flown in Greensboro.
Clearly, for this “old fly gal,” the sky is still the limit. To learn more about how she continues to push against the horizon, read her book, which is available Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Wal-Mart, and check out her website at www.maycaybeeler.com.