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Pilot, Parrot Head flock leader Jimmy Buffett mourned

Jimmy Buffett, the singer/songwriter who was well known in the aviation community for his love of seaplanes, died September 1, at his home in Sag Harbor on New York’s Long Island. He was 76.

Jimmy Buffett photographed in 2008 performing a USO concert for the crew of the USS Harry S. Truman. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Michael W. Pendergrass.

“Jimmy passed away peacefully on the night of September 1st surrounded by his family, friends, music, and dogs,” read a message on “He lived his life like a song to the very last breath and will be missed beyond measure by so many.” Buffett had been diagnosed with Merkel cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer. He continued to perform during treatment, and a surprise appearance in July at a Rhode Island restaurant turned out to be his final public performance.

Born December 25, 1946, in Pascagoula, Mississippi, Buffett was a hugely successful musician whose upbeat tunes blended folk, country, and Caribbean music. His world travels and experiences flavored his lyrics, including the song Jamaica Mistaica, in which he described Jamaican police shooting at his airplane after mistaking him for a smuggler.

Buffett learned to fly later in life, earning a private pilot certificate with single-engine land and sea ratings in a Lake Renegade at age 39, according to the fan website He earned a commercial pilot certificate with multiengine land and sea ratings, and an instrument rating. He held type ratings for the Cessna Citation 500 series, the Dassault Falcon 50 and 900, and the Grumman Albatross. He owned a restored Grumman Albatross that is currently on display at the Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurant in Orlando, Florida; a Cessna Caravan on floats; and a 1939 Grumman Goose.

Buffett kept his airplanes at Palm Beach International Airport in Florida. In December 2009 a departure procedure was named after him. The BUFIT One Departure is used for aircraft departing to the south. Its waypoints include JIMEY, BUFIT, PYRUT (pirate), FINNS, and UTLEY (for Michael Utley, Buffett’s longtime keyboard player).

Jill W. Tallman
Jill W. Tallman
AOPA Technical Editor
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who is part-owner of a Cessna 182Q.
Topics: People

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