AS THE MAYOR OF FORT MYERS, it’s Randy Henderson’s job to watch over the city. And sometimes he prefers do that from 1,000 feet.
Henderson, who holds a private pilot’s license, enjoys taking to the sky in one of the three planes that’s available to him as a member of a flying club at Page Field. Some of his destinations include the Carolinas, to visit with family, and Tallahassee, where he conducts business as the city’s top elected official. (It’s particularly efficient because there is no direct commercial flight from Fort Myers to the capital.)
Henderson traces his interest in piloting back to his childhood growing up in North Carolina. “My mom would take me to a park in Stateville where there was a real fighter jet,” he says. The aircraft was not operational, but it served as a jungle gym, of sorts. “I think the seeds were planted.”
As a student at Mars Hill University in Mars Hill, North Carolina, he took an FAA ground school course, but decided he wasn’t going to make a career in aviation, instead opting for a business degree so he could enter the banking profession. About nine years ago as he sat at his dining room table, he read an article in the News-Press about people who decided to take up flying in their later years—he was about 51 at the time. An empty nester who had raised three daughters and two sons with his wife, Ginny, Henderson decided to get his license, which he accomplished a year later.
His late father-in-law, one-time Fort Myers Mayor Oscar Corbin, was a pilot who had served in the Army Air Corps. “He was a source of inspiration,” says Henderson, who is still involved in banking as well as commercial real estate. Sometime, he and Corbin would go up at night and fly over Fort Myers. “He would tell me ‘Fort Myers is such a beautiful city.’ It was a great thing to share.
These days, he continues his love of flying and is often joined in the air by his wife.
“It’s something that gives you a sense of freedom,” he says. “It’s a wonderful, wonderful feeling.”