Airline Academy Pilot Stories

Patrick Berger - Air Interdiction Agent

  • Article by Patrick Berger - Air Interdiction Agent (Former L3Harris Flight Instructor)
  • Published
  • Duration 4 minute read

My name is Patrick Berger and I am currently an Air Interdiction Agent with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. I would like to share my journey with you as an aviator and how L3Harris helped me get to my next step in my career.

My aviation journey begins at 14 years old. My father was a recreational pilot with interests of getting me in an aircraft early on. So once I turned 14 years old he paid for a lesson in a glider and I was immediately bitten by the aviation bug. Knowing that this is what I wanted to do in my life, my dad and I slowly began taking steps towards making my dream of becoming a pilot a reality.

After graduating High School, I enrolled in Miami Dade College for an aviation degree, including the start of flight training at a small school in Miami. Fast forward a few years to around 2010 and I thought I was finally done. There I was, all of a sudden a 20 year old Certified Flight Instructor. There was only one small issue; the aviation industry had suffered very hard following the 2008 recession, and having a career as a professional pilot at the regional level during that time period was rough to say the least. So, I decided to try my luck in the U.S. Army, in hopes of becoming a Warrant Officer flying Helicopters.

The Army, unfortunately, suffered the same issues due to the recession, as well as having had the worst drawdown in US history. I was never picked up by the warrant officer program despite having all necessary qualifications. After serving a couple of years as Combat Engineer it was time to separate from the military and continue my quest of becoming a professional pilot. I moved from Colorado Springs, CO back to Orlando, FL and soon after pursued a job at L3Harris as a Flight Instructor.

Initially I was off to a rocky start, not having flown in a couple of years. Nonetheless, I picked myself up and studied all day and night to pass the standardization course, which is required to start working as a Flight Instructor at L3Harris. What a feeling that was! Finally being back in the air and teaching future pilots, exactly what I loved doing. Could there even be a better job?

I had a great time as a CFI at L3Harris. It was very challenging but rewarding. The environment at the academy is very busy, which helps you prepare for the real world. The training and structure is tailored exactly to airline operations in today’s world. I also met some great people, both coworkers and students alike that I am proud to still call friends today.

All of a sudden, a year and a half had flown by and I was at my magical hour number to leave for the airlines. I selected Silver Airways, a regional 121 carrier that flies Saab 340's around Florida and the Caribbean. After training was completed I was really liking where I was at. I even got to fly with some great Captains that worked with me at L3Harris previously.

However, something was absent. I was missing the military culture and a sense of action that came with being in the military. That was when I saw an opportunity to become an Air Interdiction Agent (Pilot) for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Thinking to myself "why not, being able to do federal law enforcement work sounds like the perfect combination of flying and excitement," I applied. After about a year of working as an Airline pilot I moved on. I now work out of the Miami field office, flying mostly King Air 350's and being a crewmember on the Astar 350's as well as the Blackhawk UH60's. I love the mission I have, keeping out all of the bad stuff trying to make its way towards U.S. territory. It is a very important and demanding job. I love the career I chose and L3Harris played a big part in that.

I would recommend L3Harris to anyone. It will lay down a great foundation for your aviation career and really prepare you well for the professional aviation world out there. Work hard and stay dedicated, do not give up and one day this dream of yours to be in the sky can be a reality too.

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