Profession: Airline Pilot (First Officer)
What do you do for a living?
I am an airline pilot for Delta Air Lines. I am the first officer, more commonly known as the co-pilot, and I fly the Airbus A220 aircraft. Delta flies all over the world, but my airplane stays within the U.S. and typically on the West Coast. My schedule can be a bit crazy at times but it’s always something different and allows me to have more time at home if I want.
What type of training do you need to do your job?
My first real experience in aviation was at Western Maricopa Education Center (West-MEC). When I was in high school, I completed the two-year Aviation Maintenance Technology program at West-MEC’s Central Campus in Glendale. West-MEC gave me an amazing foundation in aviation where I learned hands-on how to repair and maintain aircraft mechanical systems. The program was a great experience and a chance to test out a career path at a young age. Not to mention, it gave me a head start in joining a field I knew I liked.
After that, I went to Arizona State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Management Technology with a focus in professional flight. While earning my degree, I started taking flight lessons at the Mesa Gateway airport. After completing flight training, I became a flight instructor to obtain enough flight hours to work for an airline. I was then hired at Skywest Airlines and went through their pilot training program for the specific aircraft I would be flying, the CRJ.
After five years at Skywest, I was hired by my current employer, Delta Air Lines. I completed their training program for the A220 and every nine months we have more training to ensure we are fresh on all our procedures. If I decide to fly a different airplane or become a captain, there is training required to do that. This is all mandated by the FAA and ensures that commercial aviation remains the safest form of travel.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
There are so many cool parts about being a pilot that picking one is so difficult. Operating a multimillion-dollar, state-of-the-art machine is an incredible feeling and the responsibility I hold, to follow procedures properly as well as make the flight comfortable, is a constant challenge. No two flights are ever the same and you get to meet and fly with a ton of different people. Plus, the view from up high is simply unmatched. Not to mention pressing buttons that light up and make noises will always be fun, no matter how old you get. It’s fun to have a job that so many people think is interesting and want to know more about too.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I wanted to be a lot of things when I was a kid…a policeman, a solider, and even a garbage truck! No, not garbage man, the actual truck. Specifically, the arm that lifts the garbage can up. But as I grew older, I realized that my dream job was to be a pilot. No one in my family is in aviation, so I’m not exactly sure where it came from. All I know is that watching airplanes at the airport move like a big orchestra was always just so cool to see; and I wanted to be a part of it! I am glad I was able to learn about aviation technology from the instructors at West-MEC, who have been in the industry. Their knowledge of the field gave me incredible insight into what being a pilot meant. After this initial course at West-MEC, I was convinced I was going to be a pilot.
What advice would you give to a kid who wants to have a similar career?
This job is so much fun and if you enjoy airplanes and traveling, you are going to have an amazing career. The best advice I can give is start young. I started taking my initial aviation courses in high school at West-MEC. Once you are old enough, take an introductory flight at your local airport to see what it’s like to fly a real airplane. If you get “bitten by the flying bug” as they say, find a flight school and start taking lessons. If you want to be an airline pilot like me, you’ll have to find a way to build hours after you finish training. I was a flight instructor teaching other people to fly, but there are other ways to gain hours like crop dusting, taking aerial photos, and more. From there you should be able to be hired at an airline!