But that doesn't take away any of his love for flying the United States Air National Guard's F-15.
"It can be a very dangerous job sometimes," says the 38-year-old American reserve pilot from Portland, Ore.
McCaige began flight training with a class of 40 adventurers, of whom more than two dozen brave souls have since died in crashes.
"That puts it into perspective I guess," he says.
McCaige or "Opie," his call sign or nickname in the Oregon Air National Guard, flew into Yellowknife this week.
The U.S. Air National Guard and Canada's air force jointly protect North America from Mexico to the Arctic through our long-standing NORAD agreement.
Air stations or FOL (Forward Operating Locations) in Yellowknife, Inuvik, Iqaluit and Rankin Inlet are visited by both country's fighter pilots on familiarization trips.
As a reserve member, McCaige works full-time as a commercial pilot with Delta Airlines.
To keep his certification as a fighter pilot with the Air National Guard, he flies at least six simulated battles a month.
But it takes intense training to handle aircraft at more than two-and-a-half times the speed of sound.
While breaking the sound barrier jolts people on the ground, a pilot is only aware he's done so by a cockpit instrument.
Cranking on the speed from sub-sonic flight though is a jarring experience, as the pilot is slammed into the seat five times as the afterburner kicks in.
"There are five rings around the afterburner," he says. "As raw fuel is thrown into each ring and it lights, the pilot is thrown back in the seat a notch."
McCaige says his first vertical take-off from an aircraft carrier was one of his most incredible experiences as a pilot.
"While the F-15 utilizes technology from the late 60s and early 70s it's the best fighter jet built," he says. "It has two engines and it's the safest."
For each pilot that finishes six years of training, the U.S. government invests $6 million -- and there are hundreds of pilots currently flying fighterjets in the US.
McCaige flew the F-15 back to Portland Thursday morning in two hours, less than half the flying time of a commercial aircraft.