How I Became a SkyWest Pilot: Anna Yackshaw

Katelyn Boulton
Corporate Communications Coordinator

Anna Yackshaw, a SkyWest CRJ first officer, was born into a family of aviation. Often going on imaginary flights with her grandfather, a Corsair pilot, her decision to fly professionally was made long before she reached the conclusion on her own. It wasn’t until after a visit to the University of Dubuque during high school when Anna knew her childhood imagination would soon become more. She headed to flight school and eventually found herself in the right seat of a flight deck, flying for SkyWest.


How did you decide to become a pilot?

Growing up I was very fortunate to spend a lot of my childhood with my grandparents. My grandfather and I were practically inseparable. He was a Corsair pilot and mechanic for the Navy during WWII and continued to fly recreationally after the war had ended. I loved hearing all about his flying stories, and we would go on our own ‘imaginary flights’ almost daily. Little did I know that this game of pretending was foreshadowing my own career down the road.

After taking countless career assessment tests in high school and not being at all excited about any of the results, I went to visit a friend of mine who was already in college to see if he had any advice. Although he was helpful, it was his college, the University of Dubuque, that guided me to my answer. Dubuque had their own flight school. I was talking to some of his friends who were in the program and they were telling me how they flew for class. How cool is that?! For this Midwest girl who grew up flying imaginary flights with her grandfather, it was the perfect fit.

What made you decide to come to SkyWest?

When the hours in my logbook finally totaled that magic number and I wasn’t in love with my corporate job at the time, I once again reached out to friends for advice. Fortunately, having attended a flight school left me with plenty of friends scattered all over this industry. The trend I noticed the most was that everyone was happy at SkyWest, and I felt that I received the most positive feedback from those who flew for SkyWest. That feedback, in addition to my own research on the company, made it seem like the obvious choice.

What do you enjoy most about being at SkyWest?

The people are definitely the best part and biggest asset to this company. From the training department to the crews that I fly with on the line, I couldn’t ask for better co-workers. I have made friends here that will be in my life indefinitely.

Why do you love being a pilot?

I love that my job doesn’t feel like work. There are days when our paychecks are definitely earned, but overall I love that I don’t feel like I’ve gone to ‘work’ a day in my life because I love what I do. I love watching the sun rise and set at 30,000 feet. I love when we have kids on board that want to come see the cockpit and watching their faces light up when I give them a pair of wings. In addition to these perks, no day is the exact same. This job is constantly challenging me and pushing me to become a better pilot. Always having the opportunity to learn is something that I feel many take for granted.

What do people say when you tell them you’re a pilot?

The most common reaction is shock. Whether it be my age or my gender, I’m not sure. My favorite reaction is when people are simply happy for me and don’t make a big deal about it. I love what I do, but I don’t think it deserves a spotlight over anyone else’s career.

How have you seen the role of women in aviation change?

I think the general public is still use to seeing more male pilots and female flight attendants than vice versa, but I can see those roles continue to diversify with each crew I fly with. In our ever-changing world, I think there will always be challenges but I see them becoming fewer and fewer as time goes on. The growth in size and popularity of the Women in Aviation organization is a great testament to the progress and successes that women have had in this industry.

What advice would you give to women who are considering becoming pilots?

Stop thinking about it and start working on it. This is an amazing career path and even though it comes with its share of sacrifices, I don’t think there is another job out there that compares to the rewards of being a pilot.

Everyone knows that this is a male-dominated industry, but don’t let that get in your head. Instead of becoming a ‘female pilot’, just become a pilot. We all show up to the airport to do the same job. Stay strong and confident and be a good role model for those aspiring aviators following in your footsteps.

Fly safely and follow your dreams!


SkyWest is a proud supporter of Women in Aviation and will be attending the 2018 Conference later this week. Come meet with our recruiters Thursday through Saturday, March 22-24, and learn more about a career with SkyWest. There will also be an opportunity for on-site interviews for those ready to Take Control of Their Careers. Visit our career guide to learn more about flying with SkyWest.

For more inspiration on women in aviation, take a look at this blog post, featuring SkyWest First Officer (recently upgraded to Captain!) Koko Kostelny.

My Path to Becoming a SkyWest Captain: Jake Nelson

Katelyn Boulton
Corporate Communications Coordinator

When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, Jake Nelson always had an answer: a professional airline pilot. He was just 9 when he flew his first airplane, and the rest is history! With help from an encouraging mom and dad as well as many supportive mentors along the way, Jake was able to achieve his dream. Read on for his story of becoming SkyWest Captain Jake Nelson.


Hello everyone! My name is Jake Nelson. I am honored to fly for SkyWest Airlines. I recently accepted the upgrade to CRJ Captain in our new Atlanta domicile, and I couldn’t be happier. Everyone’s path to the airline world is different – that’s what makes this such an exciting industry. This is my story.

I knew I wanted to fly since I was a very little guy. I grew up in the high desert of Los Angeles County, near Edwards Air Force Base. I can remember my parents taking me out to sit near the end of the runway at USAF Plant 42 (also known as Palmdale Regional Airport – KPMD for you fellow AvGeeks!) to watch the airplanes practice in the pattern. I’ve known since then that I belonged in the sky.

Jake’s First Flight

My path to learning to fly was nothing short of magical, and I am honored to have come in contact with some amazing mentors and cheerleaders throughout my journey.

When I was 9 years old, I was given the opportunity to take part in the EAA Young Eagles program. I was taken up in a Cessna 172 and allowed to fly the airplane around my hometown. I circled over my school, my house and around the neighborhood I grew up in. I knew that day that I was born to be a pilot. I never felt more sure of anything in my life. I was encouraged by my family (shout out to Mom and Dad for “letting me do my thing”) and mentors to study hard and chase my dreams of flight. I worked tirelessly through school and spent every spare moment soaking in everything there was to learn about airplanes.

My junior year of high school, I was invited to attend the UND Aerospace summer camp in Grand Forks, North Dakota. I spent a week flying small airplanes, attending aviation seminars and living in the dorms. I knew I wanted to pursue a degree in aviation when I graduated high school.

My senior year, I applied for and was accepted to Arizona State University’s professional flight program. I spent three and a half years in Mesa, Arizona, learning how to fly and become a well-rounded professional airline pilot. I was honored to be “First to Solo” amongst my class and eventually earned my Private Pilot license at 18 years old. When I left Arizona State, I was a Multi-Engine Commercial Pilot as well as a Multi-Engine Instrument Certified Flight Instructor.

My “Path to 1500 hours” was an amazing and exciting time in my young life. I flight instructed in the daytime at the Edwards Air Force Base Aero Club, where my first flight as an instructor pilot at the Aero Club was in the very same airplane I had my Young Eagles flight in 13 years earlier! And by night, I flew on behalf of the city of Lancaster for Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The days were long, but I reveled in every moment. I think I spent more time in the air than on the ground during that time!

Jake and His Parents

In October of 2013, I applied to become a SkyWest Airlines pilot. There were many factors in my decision to join the SkyWest family, and I was drawn to SkyWest for many reasons. Being a “West Coast guy” I knew that I wanted to join a company that had a large West Coast presence. I also knew that I wanted to join a company with stability and a proven track record of growth and opportunity. While in college, I worked as an intern/instructor for another regional airline. Although I learned a lot from that company, it solidified my decision to join the SkyWest team when I earned the required flight hours.

I was fortunate to receive an offer for First Officer with SkyWest and began ground school in December of 2013. Our ground school class was pretty amazing. It was hard work, but it was incredibly rewarding. I spent nearly a month in Salt Lake City working alongside my classmates and instructors. I made lifelong friends – I have a group text with my classmates that we still talk in every day, nearly five years later!

Captain Swift and Jake

What really impressed me about SkyWest was how they strive to build “the next generation of professional aviators.” Enter: Captain Brian Swift. Captain Brian has been with SkyWest for nearly 30 years. He serves as a Check Airman and is responsible for training new pilots “on the line.” When Captain Brian was introduced to our class, we immediately connected. He would make sure that my study buddies and I were on track during ground school. He even hosted us at his home in Salt Lake for dinner and a review session before our big Systems Validation Test.

After we completed our ground school and proceeded to simulator training, Brian kept tabs on us to make sure we were progressing and made himself available to answer any questions along the way. Captain Brian made it a point to take me on my first flights “on the line.”

I will never forget the excitement and magic of lifting off of runway 16 Left in Salt Lake City for the first time. As I called for “gear up” I remember a huge smile flashing across my face and the soft chuckle Brian let out. “Roger. Gear up. This is pretty amazing, isn’t it partner?”

After Initial Operating Experience (IOE) with Brian, I was based in Minneapolis and after a month in MSP, I was able to transfer to Los Angeles. Life was pretty amazing – I was an airline pilot flying around the West Coast. Nothing made me smile bigger than being cleared to descend via the SADDE6 arrival into Los Angeles (now the IRNMN1 arrival for those AvGeeks following along at home). On a clear Los Angeles night, you could see the whole LA Basin, turning toward the runways right over downtown Los Angeles.

Jake’s First Day as an E175 First Officer

During my time as a First Officer, I had the opportunity to work with some incredibly talented and experienced crews. Many captains and flight attendants in our Los Angeles domicile have over 20 years of experience with the company. It is always an honor to share stories and lessons learned from their time in the industry.

I remember sitting at home when the email announcement came about SkyWest opening a new domicile in Atlanta. I had been considering taking the plunge into “captainhood” for a while, but something really seemed right when I saw the email. I knew that when I upgraded I did not want to commute to work. I wanted to live near the airport where I would be working out of. I thought, “It would be pretty easy to fly home to Los Angeles on my days off from Atlanta!”

So I clicked “submit standing bid” for Atlanta CRJ Captain. A few days later, I received the email confirming I was awarded the position. I was over the moon. After jumping up and down with Mom and Dad in excitement, I knew who I had to tell first: Captain Brian! Brian was ecstatic and immediately offered to help with training. I once again accepted his offer for help and guidance. I returned to Salt Lake City for ground school and simulator training, and I was sent to our Fresno and San Francisco domiciles to complete IOE training on the CRJ 200.

Captain Jake Nelson and Captain Bryan Swift

This is where this story gets super awesome. Captain Brian called me one night and told me to “go check SkedPlus!” I was delighted to see that my CRJ 700/900 differences training was scheduled and that Captain Brian would be serving as my Check Airman. When I showed up to the first day of our trip, Brian met me with a huge smile and a hug. “I am so stinkin’ proud of you, Bub!”

Brian presented his Captain Epaulettes that he wore during my initial IOE to me—it was a huge moment for me. The hard work, sweat and, yes, even some tears I put in have finally paid off. I may have let a little tear fall when Wendy, our forward flight attendant, tapped me on the shoulder and asked me, “Captain, are we good to close the door?” In that moment, I realized, “Oh my gosh. That’s me!” Brian beamed and nodded at me. “Whaddya say Captain Jake?! Let’s go fly airplanes.”


Have you been considering flying for becoming a pilot at SkyWest? Check out our pilot career guide  to learn more and to apply.

In the Flight Deck with SkyWest: Behind the Scenes

Katelyn Boulton
Corporate Communications Coordinator

Recently, we showed a glimpse inside the flight deck with two of our SkyWest pilots. This rare behind-the-scenes footage was captured with six cameras mounted throughout different areas of the aircraft, giving our viewers the best seats in the house to watch our pilots in action!

A total of four cameras were placed inside the flight deck and helped to create a unique viewpoint. Two of those cameras were mounted to the handle on the ceiling and provided a view of both the Captain and Line Check Airman. The two images were then stitched together to create a full 360-degree, movable sphere of the flight deck to show our pilots at work during each step of the journey.

There were also two GoPros, one mounted to the wind screen and the other below the throttle. Finally, two cameras were then pointed out over the wings. On all of the cameras, we collected approximately four and a half hours and 65GB of collective flight footage!

This particular flight was operating as a test flight (with no customers) from Sun Valley, Idaho (SUN) to Boise, Idaho (BOI) aboard the E175. Sunny skies and warm temperatures at both locations for the day made for a beautiful flight!

Haven’t seen the video? Watch it below for a glimpse into what it takes to be one of SkyWest’s more than 4,500 professional pilots.

Interested in becoming a SkyWest pilot? Learn more in our career guide: http://ow.ly/f7VP30fq6mx

A Year of Giving Back

Hanna Hansen
Corporate Communications Coordinator

HabitatThe Spirit of SkyWest has always been its people. Never has that been more evident than in 2017, when teams came together to give back to deserving causes around the SkyWest system as well as help team members who faced unforeseen tragedies.

From helping build homes alongside Habitat for Humanity to mark 45 years of flying, to softening the impact of Hurricane Harvey through donating to SkyWest’s non-profit organization, the SOS: Crisis Fund, SkyWest people showed what truly makes the airline great.

Through events around the system, SkyWest people made a positive impact: donating over 85,000 hours building homes alongside Habitat for Humanity; bringing the miracle of flight to 50 special passengers as part of a first-ever Wings for Autism event in California; raising money for The Special Olympics in the ultimate tug of war competition: pulling an Airbus A300 weighing nearly 180,000 pounds; introducing the excitement of aviation to girls aged 8-17 in multiple locations as part of Girls in Aviation Day; proudly displaying what it is we do day-in-and-day-out to SkyWest children at Bring our Kids to Work Day; supporting the fight against breast cancer; donating meals to those in need; and of course, banding together in relief efforts to help SkyWest’s own who were impacted by the hurricanes, fires and other unforeseen tragedies of 2017.

The year of giving didn’t stop there. SkyWest people also provided SkyWest Scholarship funds toGirlsInAviation 45 outstanding students, brought the joy of the holidays to children in need, and shared life-changing experiences with our passengers.

It’s these and stories like them that have shaped 2017 and 45 years of flight at SkyWest. We look forward to 2018 and the opportunities it holds for continuing to give back where SkyWest people live and work across the country.

SkyWest Team Provides Thousands of Meals through Holiday Donations

Jenna Graham
Corporate Communications Coordinator

12-19_Utah-Food-Bank_Executives-5SkyWest people have worked all year long to give back in our communities as we celebrate 45 years of flying, making 2017 one of our most giving years ever. As we wrap up a year that has included building houses with Habitat for Humanity in Salt Lake City, Denver, Chicago, and Los Angeles; donating thousands to support Hurricane Harvey victims; giving $45,000 for the SkyWest Scholarship Fund and transporting some very special passengers to the North Pole, SkyWest team members got in the spirit of giving once more this December, raising more than $15,000 for the Utah Food Bank, including a dollar-for-dollar match from the SkyWest, Inc. C-suite!The donation will have a large impact on fighting hunger, providing nearly 55,700 meals for those in need this holiday season and beyond.

“Not only have we had an incredible year operationally, we’ve also had a tremendous year of giving back,” said SkyWest Vice President of People Lori Hunt. “The giving hearts of our people is another attribute that sets SkyWest people apart as the best in the industry. Thank you all for your generous time, volunteering and donations to help others both inside and outside the SkyWest team.”

The Utah Food Bank, a member of the nationwide network, Feeding America, feeds 392,000 children, families and seniors who are unsure of where their next meal will come from. They are 12-19_Utah-Food-Bank_Executives-22 (002)one of several food banks that delivers food to their partner agencies free of charge and are a member of the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief network.

A huge thank you to everyone who contributed and joined the fight against hunger! You can continue to make donations to the Utah Food Bank through the SkyWest team page by clicking here.

Pilot and Son’s Story Comes Full Circle at SkyWest Flight to the North Pole

Caitlin Miller
People Programs Coordinator

12_09-MKE-FantasyFlight_00150When Chicago-based CRJ Captain Tim Schuh heard about the opportunity to serve as crew on the SkyWest-sponsored Flight to the North Pole benefiting children with life-threatening illness in the Milwaukee area, he immediately volunteered to serve as Captain of the special flight.  He was eager to give back after his personal experience at the Milwaukee Children’s Hospital with his own infant son.

“Our time in the Milwaukee Children’s Hospital NICU, spending all day sitting by our baby, feeling helpless, was the most difficult month of our lives,” Captain Schuh remembers. “I know how the other families are feeling. Even though Oliver has obstacles to overcome, many of the other families are dealing with even more difficult prognoses.”

Captain Schuh and his wife were expecting their first child earlier this year.  At their 20-week ultrasound appointment, they were planning on discovering the gender when they learned their baby had spina bifida. Spina bifida is a birth defect in which a developing baby’s spinal cord fails to develop properly. The effects are lifelong. As a result of spina bifida, the baby also had hydrocephalus, which is a buildup of fluid in the brain. image5

On Aug. 25, 2017, their son, Oliver, was born. Within 12 hours of his birth, he had surgery on his back to close the damaged area. While he was healing, he contracted meningitis, making surgery to address the hydrocephalus impossible until he recovered from that infection. To provide temporary relief to the pressure in his head, an orange tube was placed from his head to an exterior bag. Finally, once the meningitis healed, baby Oliver was able to undergo the secondary surgery to relieve the hydrocephalus.

Captain Schuh and his wife were finally able to take their son home on Sept. 27 and he is doing well. They are grateful to the Milwaukee Children’s Hospital for everything they did for their family, including several lifesaving operations and treatments all while keeping them informed and teaching them everything they needed to know along the way.

“I wanted to help with the Milwaukee Flight to the North Pole because it is a small thing I am able to do to help the kids and families going through difficult times,” Captain Schuh said.

12_09-MKE-FantasyFlight_00216The efforts of Captain Schuh and the rest of the SkyWest volunteers at the Milwaukee Flight to the North Pole helped brighten the holidays for children and their families going through the toughest of times. These team members are shining examples of the giving spirit of SkyWest people.

Read more about SkyWest’s Flight to the North Pole.

Find out how to join the SkyWest team.

 

SkyWest Flies Children to “North Pole”

Hanna Hansen
Corporate Communications Coordinator

Pure joy and merriment filled the Colorado Springs, Colorado (COS) and Milwaukee, Wisconsin (MKE) airports this weekend as SkyWest crews flew more than 100 children to a special destination not found on any route map: the North Pole.

SkyWest Fantasy Flight – COS
At the 11th annual Fantasy Flight, SkyWest crews gave Rudolph the night off, welcoming 30 eager children onboard a CRJ200 for a 30-minuite flight to the “North Pole.” Partnering the Junior League of Colorado Springs and CPCD…giving children a head start, the night spread holiday cheer to children who live at or below poverty level.

IMG_3149“Fantasy Flight brings a magical atmosphere of wonder and cheer to the children in Colorado Springs,” said Lori Hunt, SkyWest’s vice president of People. “Every year, SkyWest people are delighted to play a part in creating this unforgettable event.”

These young passengers, many of whom would otherwise receive little to nothing on Christmas morning, were greeted by mascots, carolers as well as Santa and Mrs. Claus themselves as they enjoyed crafts, games, a festive meal and gifts from their wish lists in a Christmas wonderland created by volunteers. The goal of the event: to provide memories of happiness and cheer for each of the children involved.

“This is a special experience that not everyone gets to have, we feel so privileged,” said Rebecca Brown whose son Ryman participated in the event. “As soon as we found out he was invited, he started flying around pretending to be an airplane. The whole thing has been a great time and experience.”

The Flight to the North Pole – MKEMKE FF
The Flight to the North Pole helped brighten the season for 72 children from Milwaukee Children’s Hospital suffering from serious illness and their families as they boarded a SkyWest CRJ700 and took a 20-minute ride to the “North Pole” (a nearby hangar decked out in holiday style!). While it never left the ground, the festive ride provided much needed smiles and wonderment to the tiny passengers.

The event meant a little something more to the captain operating the special flight, Captain Tim Schuh, who’s newborn son spent several weeks at Milwaukee’s Children’s Hospital this past summer.

“We are so thankful for everything Children’s Hospital did for our family,” said Captain Schuh. “They did several life -saving operations and treatments and were always so good at keeping us informed and teaching us everything we had to know. I wanted to take part in this event because it is a small thing that I am able to do to help the kids and the families that are going through difficult times there. I know how they are feeling. Even though my son has obstacles to overcome in life, many of the families at Children’s are dealing with even more difficult news and prognosis.”IMG_3143

Both events, made possible through the hard work of SkyWest elves and countless volunteers from various other organizations, welcomed in the warmth of the holiday season providing a day full of Christmas magic to all in attendance! These events are another example of the many ways SkyWest people brighten the journey of passengers young and old.

Take a look at more photos from the events!

SkyWest Pioneer Captain Mary Conti Retires After 32 Years

Layne Watson
Corporate Communications Manager

Image 4After 32 years of dedicated service, Palm Springs (PSP) Captain and SkyWest’s first female captain Mary Conti retired on Saturday. Captain Conti was one of the first female pilots at SkyWest and the longest-tenured female pilot in SkyWest’s 45-year history.

“I want to thank Captain Conti for her leadership and professionalism over her decades-long career here,” said Tracy Gallo, Vice President – Flight Operations. “Captain Conti is a role model to countless female pilots at SkyWest and across the industry over the last 32 years. We thank her for her service and wish her the best of luck in her retirement.”

Captain Conti began her SkyWest journey during the SkyWest/SunAire merger in 1985 after being rejected at other companies strictly because she was female.

“There were corporate jobs and you knew you were being turned down because you were a female. They could actually tell you that back then,” said Captain Conti.

Image 1Her initial training at SkyWest was completed in one of SkyWest’s first hangars at the old St. George, Utah airport in 1985. Following training, she went to PSP to fly, where SkyWest’s acquisition of SunAire was still in transition. Nine months later, she and two other female pilots upgraded to captain together, becoming SkyWest’s first female captains. Bringing her journey full circle, Captain Conti completed her final flight last week from San Francisco (SFO) to PSP with an all-female crew.

The first SkyWest employee Captain Conti happened to meet when she got to PSP was a check airman who soon became chief pilot. He is now her husband of nearly 30 years and they have one daughter.

After her first two years at SkyWest, Captain Conti says she knew she wanted to stay and was based in PSP her entire career – with the exception of a few months after upgrades and transitions.

“Working at SkyWest is like working with family. I never get sick of my crews!” said Captain Conti. “You can have a bad day but the people you work with just makes it all better. Coming to SkyWest was the best decision I could have made. If I could do it all over again, I would without a doubt.”

“Like most pilots, I love what I do,” continued Captain Conti. “It gets in your system and it’s hard to let it go. Doing it with amazing crews like the ones at SkyWest makes it even more special.”

Please join us in thanking Captain Conti for her more than 32 years of dedicated service. Congratulations, Mary!

 

 

Chicago Habitat for Humanity Family Welcomed Home

Hanna Hansen
Corporate Communications Coordinator

A grateful family of five was recently welcomed home for the first time at a Chicago Habitat for Humanity home dedication; a house SkyWest people worked together to help build.
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“This home means peace of mind. You never know what the future will bring, but we’ll know [our kids and grandkids] always have a home to go to,” said Shuanta and Mike Sampson, beneficiaries of the new Habitat home.

Volunteers, Habitat staff, donors and community members were all in attendance to welcome the Sampson family home with a ceremonial ribbon cutting, handing over of the keys and home tour. Messay Kedida, one of the Sampson’s new neighbors and fellow Habitat beneficiary said, “The excitement you feel leading up to getting your house is nothing like the excitement you feel when you’re in your new home with your family – especially over the holidays.”636459206902639183

Over the past few months, SkyWest teams have been working alongside Habitat for Humanity to help build homes around the system in celebration of 45 years of flying. David Chudy of Habitat for Humanity Chicago said, “It’s great to see SkyWest employees come together to help with Habitat Chicago’s vision to build strong communities and provide housing. Volunteers are instrumental. Thank you to SkyWest!”

SkyWest is happy to support initiatives that encourage employees to give back. Learn more about joining the SkyWest team.