An airline pilot…how did you get into that career? That is by far the most common question I get asked. In fact, I had somebody ask me this just the other day. It has a simple answer: I decided I wanted to do it, so I did it. But I didn’t become an airline pilot overnight. It took years of studying and hundreds of hours of flying. I know many people wonder what it takes, so here is a glimpse into my experience of becoming an airline pilot.
When I was 17 years old, I found out that girls could be pilots. I’d always thought flying was cool and traveling sounded fun, but up to that point, it never occurred to me that I could be a pilot.
I was 18 the first time I stepped foot on an airplane, and it is a day I will never forget. The feeling of freedom I got when that jet airplane took flight is one that has stuck with me even after all these years. I knew at that moment that I was going to be a pilot, and there was nothing and nobody that could change my mind.
A few months after that first flight, I started my flight training. I thought my instructor would just fly me around that day, but he let me take the controls and fly wherever I wanted to. An hour of pure joy- I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. I was excited about aviation before this day, but flying that little 2-seater Diamond Katana airplane for the first time solidified that. I was hooked.
A few weeks after that was my next big moment in aviation: my first solo. I had less than 20 hours, but my instructor said I was ready. You think letting your teenagers drive a car at 16 is scary? Think of letting them fly an airplane alone when they are only 18! Good thing 18 year olds know everything… haha. But I wasn’t nervous- I was excited. And it was exhilarating- landing and taking off that airplane all by myself. Who’d have thought that me, of all people, would be able to do something so incredible? I had found my wings!
Time flew by quickly over the next three years. I earned my Private Pilot’s License, Instrument Rating, Multi Engine License, Commercial License, and then my Flight Instructor Certificate.
I only needed 250 hours to get my commercial license, but no airline can or would hire a pilot with such littler hours, so I decided to become a flight instructor to build my time. Talk about a fun/scary/adventure of a job that was! I had to be on my A-Game 100% of the time because students are unpredictable. After years of flight instructing, I had enough hours to apply for the airlines. Not a major airline, but a regional airline that does the shorter flights for the majors- the small jets.
A new job is always intimidating, but starting a new job at a regional airline brought that intimidation factor to a whole new level for me. I went from flying a 1,200 pound airplane as a student and CFI to a 26,000 pound EMB-120 propped-airplane and later on to a 50,000 pound CRJ aka the Barbie Jet; from flying around 1- 3 people to up to 76 passengers. It was a huge jump, but one I will never regret.
This was taken in 2015, my last day flying the EMB-120 Brasilia, aka "The Bro."