I’d like to acknowledge my wife, Beverly, for helping to get me here. She has fully supported my aviation eduction since we got together, in all the many forms that has taken. She’s encouraged the purchase of each of our two airplanes as my skills have progressed, and actively flown by my side all over the great USA in some serious IMC. She is a true friend and a wonderful companion.
Google Effect: I started my generally aviation flying in the early 80’s with only enough disposable income to sign up for a training lesson once every three weeks. In the 90’s I had my license and enough resources to begin building flight experience. Flight training became a means of relaxation from the stresses of my utility work.
My utility career had taken off and allowed me to transition from executive leadership in our unregulated energy trading subsidiary, to leading a successful effort to builds Network Operations Center for PHI. I ultimately was chosen to run the operation, but the net result was that the free time I used to have for flight training had evaporated with greater responsibilities. I had a beautiful twin sitting in my hangar, and was not able to enjoy it. Something had to give.
When I heard that the company was being purchased – one massive company buying our already large one – I knew that I’d be getting busier still. I was particularly frustrated one day, and began daydreaming about aviation jobs I could retire to. I googled the internet like I’d done many times before, only this time, Piedmont Airlines with their Salisbury base popped up.
The courting begins: I stared at the Piedmont page for several minutes, smiling at the thought of some day flying for a living. The work on my desk would be there in an hour, and I’d ever get through it all by the end of the week anyway. Spending some time on this fantasy would give me the break I needed to get back to it again. I sent in my aviation resume.
Within 20 minutes I’d gotten an email back in response! I was incredulous. Even though I had what I considered to be extensive and valid general aviation experience, I had no idea how to behave in a commercial environment. Not even a commercial cargo environment. With exactly four hours of turbine time at this point from a recent King Air opportunity, I fully expected to hear absolutely nothing. The fact that I wasn’t dismissed out of hand was exhilarating!! I was shocked. This must mean I was getting close to being able to fly commercially. Productivity for the remainder of my day amounted to exactly zilch for PHI.
Piedmont’s recruiter, Jody, and I exchanged a number of emails before I decided to close my office door and get on the phone. I admitted to her that I was interested in hearing more, but gainfully employed and most likely would not pursue this in the end. She was ok with that, and encouraged me to at least look into it. I was assured that going further and than backing out wouldn’t scuttle my chances of doing this for real in the future. I had 12 weeks of vacation I hadn’t used, so taking a day of to experience a commercial aviation interview was something I’d like to do.
The Interview: I drove up to Philly – Terminal F – where I found 5 or 6 other candidates waiting. We had the chance to talk a bit before things got rolling, and most of them had what I considered to be impressive commercial aviation backgrounds. One of the candidates and myself had only general aviation experience, which would put us at a distinct disadvantage in this crowd. I did not feel nervous since I had no intention of taking this job anyway. My goal was simply to learn something in the process and find out if I’d ever really have a shot. I was hopeful.
The initial part of the interview was led by an HR guy, a non-pilot. He walked us through the awesome benefits that were apparently tops in the regional industry. $30k per year with a 5K$ signing bonus falls. The numbers fell far short of what I’d consider enticing, but I just smiled inwardly. At least I was able to confirm how poorly pilots are paid, so I’ve learned something already.
The Chief Pilot came in and talked to all the candidates together. We took a 10 minute break and then they called us in one-by-one. The other candidate with only GA experience was the first one in the door, and he came out dejected only a few minutes after that. This could get ugly for me. I was called in next, and took my seat across the table from the HR guy and the Chief Pilot. The Chief Pilot did all the talking and he was a serious looking fellow. I suspected he had every intention of keeping this interview short and sending me on my way.
His name was Matt and he started off with questions about my background, and then a few technical questions to get warmed up. I responded to those just fine, so he said let’d just get right to it. At this point he pulls out a Jeppesen approach plate, pointing out items for me to discuss. I told him I was unfamiliar with this format of an approach plate since I used NOS Government Charts, but that I’d be able to find what I needed given a few more seconds.
After a few additional questions, I suggested that it might be more efficient if I just walked him through how I’d fly the approach he’d presented. I walked him through a flight into the area from the initial approach fix, right on down the the runway. When started talking with him about terrain concerns and how to ensure clearances, he’d heard enough to be satisfied. He pulled the chart back across the table and starting asking social questions.
We started talking about why did I wanted to do this, and the business I was in that got me here. I had the chance to talk about my father’s influence, right on through purchasing a Twin Comanche. Throughout the conversation, we found common points of interest and the interview felt more like I was talking with a friend than being interviewed. I was having a good time.
This discussion was going on longer than planned, I think, so Matt turned to the HR guy and said ‘Make him an Offer’. He asked me what questions I had, but I couldn’t think of any. I just didn’t know much about the details of their training or operations process. It was clear I was winging it.
I was elated to actually succeed in the only aviation interview I’d participated in. I was up front with everyone, and told them I would consider the offer and let them know. Leaving Terminal F I had no intention of retiring, but wanted to celebrate this little victory.
I called my wife on the way home and talked her ears off. Then she told me not to rule it out so quickly. This is something she knew I’d eventually do. NAAAAHHHHH……
When I got home we talked about it throughout the evening. By the next day I knew I was going to do this. It was time.