After decades of flying 747s, it must be a bit of a letdown to be driving a bus. But for former airline captain Paul Shaughnessy, wheeling a luxury motor coach down I-90 is a throwback to his glory days in aviation. He’s an operator for LimoLiner, a deluxe shuttle between Boston and New York City that sells itself as combining the best of air and land travel without the hassle. Shaughnessy revels in the first-class cabin and onboard attendant who still serves hot meals on every trip. He enjoys the sense of freedom and same mastery he felt when piloting large aircraft for an international fleet. Shaughnessy spoke with Globe correspondent Cindy Atoji Keene about how bus drivers deserve more credit than most people give them.
“Many bus drivers come to their role from previous careers. That is true for me – I retired after flying around the world for Evergreen International Airlines, a military contract company. I found myself needing something to do, other than playing the piano an hour every day as my recreation. Now I play with the bus for a while; I say that jokingly but take it very seriously. I bring the same situational awareness to the roads that I deployed as a pilot. It all started when I went to Parker Driving School to get my commercial driver’s license (CDL). I wanted use my 350 diesel truck to tow my boat and needed the CDL – backing up with the boat is similar to backing up a tractor trailer. This was 20 years ago, and I had a lot of hotel layovers; that’s when I studied for the license. Much later, I heard about LimoLiner because my brother Bobby, an engineer, also drives for them. I do 490 miles – that’s round trip from the heart of Boston to the center of NYC and back – in about 4.5 hours (each way). To tell you the truth, there are a lot of reckless, fly-by-night bus operators who are in it for quick money and skimp on the maintenance. But I have 28 passengers on board, and I never forget that responsibility or take it lightly. I’m always conservative in my driving – speed limits are there for a reason. When I pick up the bus in Avon, I run through a safety check which includes looking at the coolant, oil and belts; examining at the frame and tire condition, and more. People take bus drivers for granted but it’s a highly skilled profession. I’m operating an expensive piece of machinery worth almost a million dollars, and have people’s safety in my hands. And I love what I do, especially when I’m coming through the scenic hills in Connecticut. I’m enjoying the ride as much as everyone else.”