By Seth Daniel
Revere native Lou Buonadonna logged thousands of miles up in the sky as a commercial cargo pilot over the last 35 years, retiring this past December, but he said it wouldn’t be the exotic locales or bustling airports he would miss, it would be the peaceful nights high above the world flying a plane so high that he often felt he could reach out and touch the stars.
“It’s peaceful up there,” he said from his home in New Hampshire. “You wouldn’t believe how peaceful it is. You’re up there 35,000 feet and you can almost just reach up and touch the moon and stars. I’ve seen so many things up there you wouldn’t believe. I’ve seen comets, meteors and the Northern Lights. But it’s really usually just my co-pilot and I alone up there reflecting on our families. With all the chaos in the world, it’s amazing how peaceful it is up above it. I do really miss being up there and the peace of it all.”
Buonadonna is the son of Mary Buonadonna, who still lives in Revere, and the late Dominic Buonadonna. He is married to Maryanne Buonadonna and has three grown children, Tara, Ryan and Kathryn.
Buonadonna began in very humbling circumstances as a student, he said. He wasn’t an outstanding student, starting at the Lincoln School and going to middle school in the Garfield and Whelan Schools. He attended Revere High School and graduated in 1973.
He said many teachers pushed him at Revere High to extend himself, including Hugo Evangelista.
“I was terrible at math and he mentored me,” he said. “He took me under his wing and I’ll be forever grateful to him. He helped me and is one teacher I still think of.”
Following high school, Buonadonna decided he wanted to try pilot school, and enrolled in the North Shore Community College Aviation Sciences program in Beverly. In 1979, he graduated from that program and landed a job in Phoenix, where he was for three years.
From there, Buonadonna said he got a job with Precision Airlines and was able to move back to New Hampshire and Vermont. While his family stayed in Manchester, Buonadonna flew all over the country.
Things really changed for him, though, when he got a job with FedEx – flying cargo planes all over the world.
He said he has delivered gorillas to the Los Angeles Zoo, dolphins in tanks to SeaWorld, and even cattle to markets – among the other less notable items.
Buonadonna said after getting his break in 1989 with FedEx, where he stayed until retirement this past December, he had the chance to log many hours and many long flights. However, the nature of being a pilot is being gone, and with young children, he said he always kept close by.
“My schedule was very hard,” he said. “I was gone from home half of my career. My wife held on and raised our three kids. It was hard on everyone…I decided at FedEx to stay domestic. If something happens at home, you can get back much quicker from Buffalo, New York, than from the Bahamas. I really wanted to stay close to my family. Too many kids grow up without their father and we didn’t want that.”
Buonadonna said he highly recommends the piloting profession to any Revere youth that is considering such an occupation. He said it’s a great profession and pilots are in great demand right now.
More than anything, though, he wanted to say thank you to the community that gave him a leg up and helped him on to a rewarding career.
“I really am grateful to the City for educating me,” he said. “I’m one of the few who made it with a lot of hard work.”