Before becoming a part of the aviation industry I was an avid traveler. After a summer in Spain with my University’s Study Abroad program the travel bug bit hard, sinking its sharp, vicious little teeth into the heart of my soul. The trip wasn’t even over yet and I was already looking for the next one.
I started researching. Have you ever heard of TEFL? I hadn’t. It stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language and it was my golden ticket to an extended trip abroad. You see, there are language schools all over the world ready to hire qualified English Teachers. Some even fly you out and provide room and board in an addition to a decent paycheck.
I spent a year in Costa Rica teaching English to the locals, and another year in Guatemala making the kinds of memories that last a lifetime. But after two years of living abroad, funds were running low and though I’d never admit it to them, I was starting to miss my family and friends back home. I needed a new way to support my travel addiction, something a little more practical this time.
I started researching. The crazy thing is the answer to my problems had been staring me in the face all along. Literally. Every time I boarded a plane, purchased a soda mid-flight or sat in the exit row of an airplane— a flight attendant was always smiling back.
I became entranced, diving headfirst into the wealth of knowledge available online. I researched the lifestyle, the training, the job, the benefits. It was my first taste of the aviation world and it was oh so deliciously sweet. Suddenly I was questioning all of my life choices — seriously, why hadn’t I thought of this before? — and before I knew it, I was hitting the send button on my application.
Training was intense. We spent hours on end drilling safety procedures; everything from least risk bomb locations to handling heart attacks at 39,000ft. I was bewitched, riding a high unlike any other I’d experienced thus far. But on breaks and during duller moments in the classroom my curiosity snuck into the room next door, where a group of pilots were also undergoing their initial training.
By the end of the first week this ordinary room had transformed into a room that sizzled and popped and crackled with intrigue. But it was a room filled almost entirely of confident, professional middle-aged men and with absolutely zero idea of what it was about in there, I felt childish to say the least.
There was, however, a single blonde woman who’s name I would later learn was Victoria. A week passed, then another. A whisper moved through me— urging me to introduce myself. By then I’d discovered the simulator room and was becoming more and more enticed by the possibilities that existed in the room next door.
Finally, I introduced myself to Victoria and I admitted I was interested. Clueless, but interested. She was happy to talk with me, even gave me her number. Looking back, I recognize this as the moment where everything changed. And I can’t help but wonder if she saw then what I see now: the moment I decided I wanted to become an airline pilot.
You know what comes next. That’s right— I started researching. Podcasts, articles, blogs. Anything that I could get my hands on really. And when I was released to the line after training, I began talking with the pilots I was flying with. At the time, my biggest concern was how much math the job involved. I laugh about that now, just as so many of the pilots I’d asked back then did too. Contrary to popular belief, flying requires very little math outside some basic arithmetic here and there.
I began saving right away and when I had enough, I started training for my Private Pilot License. A short time later, I’d fully committed and taken out a loan for the rest of my training at a local fast track school. In just 12 months I earned 7 ratings and became a commercially rated Multi-Engine Instructor.
I’m currently a CFI at L3Harris Flight Academy, my students come from all over the world: Thailand, India, China, Korea and more. I’m nearing the 1000-hour mark and have been hired to start with the Spirit Airline’s Flight Ops Instructor Program once I hit 1500-hours. Ironically, it was the same man that taught the pilot group next door during my flight attendant training all those years ago that offered me the job.
Now whether you’re reading this article because you’re interested in learning to fly for fun or because you’re considering becoming a professional pilot my advice is to first do your research. Then take the discovery flight and enjoy the ride.