Tag Archives: How to become a pilot

SkyWest Pilots Give Back To Aviation Community

Whether its search and rescue missions to finding missing hikers, or coming to the rescue when natural disasters strike (Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc.), the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), with its 60,000 members, continues to support communities across the country by donating their time and aviation expertise to provide essential services for those in need.

Photo by Robert Bowden

SkyWest pilots Kyle Curtiss and Matt Creed are among the many volunteers that donate their time to help with the different programs that CAP has to offer. From providing emergency services both on the ground and in the air, to its award-winning aerospace education and cadet programs, CAP – an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force – is providing paths for youth to become aviation leaders.

“I just love watching their eyes light up,” said SkyWest pilot and Flight Operations Supervisor, Kyle Curtiss.

“It’s an experience unlike any other” added SkyWest Assistant Chief Pilot, Matt Creed.

When they are not in the air flying one of SkyWest’s 2200+ daily departures across North America, you can find Kyle and Matt helping out their local CAP units which they help oversee.

“I got started in 2013 and I just love it,” said Curtiss who is now the Central Michigan Group Commander in the CAP program. “I love my job, I love flying and I just wanted to give back and get involved in the aviation community.”

Photo by Robert Bowden

For Matt, who has been involved with CAP for more than two decades and is now the Great Lakes Region Commander, it was love at first flight.

“I got involved with CAP when I was 10 years old. I later became a cadet and I’ll never forget my first lesson. I had great CAP instructors and to be able to pass that on to the younger generation is something that I really enjoy and love to do. They are our future leaders and their excitement is contagious.”

Photo by Robert Bowden

Together, the SkyWest pilots give tours of the facilities and different aircraft. The tours have quickly caught on with units doing so across the state.

“It’s great to show the kids how the operation is run and all the different aspects that go into flying,” said Curtiss. “Their eyes light up when we’ve taken them to the airport to see air traffic control tower. How many people can say they have been able to do that?!”

“We love giving tours and giving the kids that opportunity to experience sitting in the front seat of an airplane and seeing the control tower,” added Creed. “Most kids don’t get to see the operation up close like that, but CAP has allowed us to give them those experiences. It’s awesome!”

Many thanks to Matt and Kyle, as well as all the SkyWest people who volunteer countless hours across the country to make a difference in the lives of others! You are excellent representatives of SkyWest and we thank you for all that you do and for sharing your love of flying.

For those interested in joining SkyWest, you can learn more here.

Photo by Robert Bowden

How I Became a SkyWest Pilot: Anna Yackshaw

Justin Giles
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

Justin Giles
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.

My SkyWest Journey: From Cadet to Pilot

McKall Morris
Corporate Communications Manager

The SkyWest Pilot Pathway Program provides a direct path for exceptional pilots with a desire to take control of their aviation career! Enhanced seniority, guaranteed final interviews and access to pilot mentors are just a few of the upgrades students can receive by becoming a SkyWest Cadet on your way to becoming one of SkyWest’s nearly 4,000 professional pilots.

We talked to three of our pilots who originally joined SkyWest as cadets – Dylan Girgen, Jordan Torrance and Cullen Burgess ­– about their experience with the SkyWest Pilot Pathway Program, SkyWest’s training, and the journey to becoming a professional SkyWest pilot.

Cullen and Jordan's Class Photo

Cullen and Jordan’s Class Photo

Dylan's Class Photo

Dylan’s Class Photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How did you hear about the SkyWest Pilot Pathway Program?

Dylan: I heard about the program through a friend that was in it before me – he was one of the first cadets. I joined because it was a fairly no risk commitment and it allowed me to feel a part of something bigger than just flight instructing. Being a cadet was a nice boost of confidence and drive to finish my hours as a CFI.

Jordan: I heard about [it] through my last job at Transpac Aviation Academy. Several of my buddies stressed the importance of the cadet program, mainly for one reason – you get propelled to the top seniority of your new hire class, and I knew having the edge in seniority was going to be significant.

What was your favorite benefit of being a SkyWest Cadet?

Cullen: It was nice to have an introduction to the company and be somewhat made a part of the team prior to showing up to day one.

Jordan: My favorite thing about being a SkyWest cadet was the advantage in seniority. We bid on our simulator time and location slots, all in the order of our seniority.

Dylan: Being a cadet, it was fun to interact with current SkyWest pilots. The recruitment pilots visited us at UND and took is out for dinner. This let us see the “real side” of someone who works at SkyWest, not just a practiced speech.

How did your guaranteed final interview go?

Dylan: The final interview went really well because we already knew our college representative. The informal dinners were really good for asking questions about what to expect in the interview and the real job.

Cullen: My interview went very nicely – everyone on the interview team was very kind. They were forward with what they were looking for and it made the day a lot easier knowing how it would go. I felt prepared for it. My advice is to study as much as you can. Making an effort to understand the airline world prior to entering shows them that you take it seriously. Knowing systems and regulations that apply are key, as well as things like exemption 3585. For the interview portion, show them that you’re someone they can sit next to for four days. That’s a big key, being a human being.

How was your training experience?

Cullen: Training was fairly straight forward and I felt like the whole teaching staff wanted us to succeed. I knew that there would be a lot of effort required to pass and I had to be willing to put in the effort. If you needed extra help on anything and let them know they were 100 percent willing to help out. That being said, almost everyone who did put the effort in made it through. That’s not something that all airlines can say, people I talk to now from other airlines talk about their dropout rates and they’re much higher than ours.

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Jordan in the flight deck

Jordan: Training wasn’t too much of a surprise. The ground instructors brief you on what to expect. That, coupled with what my friends had told me, made me feel prepared. The simulator portion was by far the toughest. There are so many things to know, it’s a little overwhelming to say the least. What’s challenging is knowing all the callouts, the profiles, the procedures, learning to fly a new plane and then top that off with the stress of being evaluated on everything you do. It’s not a walk in the park.

Why did you choose to fly with SkyWest?

Dylan: It’s a great company with people that care about each other. I chose SkyWest because they have a huge pilot staff, a large route structure and for these reasons I knew SkyWest was stable and growing!

Cullen: Choosing SkyWest boiled down to quality of training and quality of life. First and foremost I want to fly safely for a safe airline, and then I was hoping to be able to have some high quality of life as well. I could see with the training that there are high standards and I liked that. I also saw the potential for a quality of life prior to coming here; now that I am here the movement is unreal. Very soon I will most likely hold a line in Detroit, which is incredible for only being a couple months in. I feel that SkyWest would be okay in an economic downturn as well, so I don’t fear for my job as others do at other airlines. I would suggest to not to be persuaded to join a company for a bonus or a 6 month upgrade, go where you can learn to be part of the best and in the meantime still enjoy good pay without fear of losing a job as well as enjoy good people to work with!

Jordan: I’ve always heard positive things about SkyWest. The aviation industry seems like it’s in constant turmoil but SkyWest remains fairly constant and treats their employees well. Other regional airlines seem to always be uncertain of their future but the future is bright for SkyWest. We have tons of aircraft and continue to grow. It’s a great time to be in this company!

Dylan IOE

Dylan and crew.

Interested in joining the SkyWest Pilot Pathway Program and becoming a cadet? Apply online at www.skywest.com/pilot-pathway.

My SkyWest Journey: Kaleb Lusby

McKall Morris
Corporate Communications Manager

One of SkyWest’s former captains, Kaleb Lusby, recently wrote a letter describing how he got started at SkyWest and how the nine years he spent at the airline prepared him to get his dream job at a legacy carrier. Here’s his story:

SLC-Runway-0715

When SkyWest Airlines hired me in 2007, it was apparent immediately that this was a different kind of airline. The environment in which I worked was one that cultivated joy and fulfillment, and helped mold me into the pilot I am today.

My aviation journey started in January 2001 when I was a high school senior wanting to become an airline pilot. I accomplished ground school while finishing my last semester of high school. After graduation I started my flight training at the local airport. By August I was a certified private pilot and, I began my college education at University of Central Missouri in the Professional Pilot Program.

While accomplishing my four year degree, I was also earning credits for flying. This took dedication and passion, flying over weekends, training over breaks and lots of long nights studying. My junior year in college I was hired as a flight instructor for UCM. I spent my final two years building flight time and training some of the best aviators around. My final semester at college, the local dispatch received a call from an air ambulance pilot who had been through the flight program in the past and was looking for a copilot. After interviewing, I was selected and spent two years flying for Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City as an air ambulance pilot.

Then, in February of 2007, I was hired at SkyWest and started training soon after. The tone the instructors set was caring and understanding. If you needed help and asked, you would receive it. Spending time in the right seat as a first officer, I approached every trip as a learning experience, knowing soon I would be in the left seat and commanding the aircraft. SkyWest people take care of their customers and each other.

Once I upgraded to Captain, I could see that the “tone” of the flight was largely dependent upon my actions and attitude. SkyWest had been preparing me for this seat since day one. Little did I know that SkyWest crewmembers had been modeling what it meant to take care of each other, to operate on time and perform with safety as the number one priority. It doesn’t end in the flight deck either; everyone involved has like-minded goals.

During my time as a captain I applied to be a pilot recruiter as well. This was truly an honor to be a part of, because everything that makes this company what it is, starts with who we hire. The people of SkyWest make this company a truly different kind of airline.

This culture that I worked in for nine years helped mold me. And having some of the best training and leadership available, flying great aircraft with phenomenal crews, all within a culture that is truly amazing, helped me to land a job at a legacy airline. Everything I learned during my time at SkyWest has benefited me in my career.

SkyWest is the kind of airline you can stay at for your entire career; however, my dreams and ambitions involved overseas flying. Thank you, SkyWest, for nine wonderful years.

Sincerely,

 

 

Kaleb Lusby – MD88 First Officer

PlanesOnRamp_2170

SkyWest has been partners with major airlines for decades and we’ve recently signed new flying agreements with United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and Alaska Airlines, giving our pilots more opportunity and exposure than any other regional pilot. Take control of your career with SkyWest. Check out our pilot career guide for more information.

How I Became a SkyWest Pilot: Koko Kostelny

McKall Morris
Corporate Communications Manager

Miyukiko (Koko) Kostelny, a SkyWest CRJ first officer, knew she wanted to be a pilot ever since she was a young child. And after attending a Women in Aviation Conference, where she met several SkyWest pilots, she knew that she wanted to fly for SkyWest.


How did you decide to become a pilot?

FullSizeRenderGrowing up I was surrounded by military aviation, as my father was an A-6 Navigator in the Marine Corps. My family was stationed mostly overseas, so whenever it was vacation time or we were visiting family, we got to fly on many different airlines and aircraft. I still remember as a little girl going up to the flight deck during flights to Guam on a 737, a 747 to Chicago, or a 777 passing through Hawaii. Sometimes we even flew military standby!

Even as a kid, I vividly remember pilots showing me the flight deck. I collected plastic wings from every airline we flew and always begged my parents to wait so I could sit up in the flight deck and get my picture taken after we landed. What I really loved was seeing female pilots flying on long international hauls because I thought “[I]f they can do that, I can do it one day.”

As a kid, it seemed like a dream job to wake up and fly to/from all of these exotic destinations… all while soaring through the clouds. I couldn’t imagine people got to travel the world as a full-time job!

When I took a discovery flight in high school, it was a no brainer. I was hooked, and I knew that this was going to be my career. I knew I was going to enjoy the thrill of flying, and the ever-changing job environment. No day is the same as many things affect our flying, and I knew I would have satisfaction in flying and connecting passengers to the world, just as the pilots had done for me growing up.

What made you decide to come to SkyWest?

IMG_4749I wanted to be a part of something that was more than just an airline pilot. I wanted to belong to a company where I would truly feel at home; where it was diverse; where I could enjoy flying and have pride in taking our passengers to their destinations. I thought back to when I was an airline passenger and those pilots that showed me the flight deck – I wanted to have pride in my job, company and career. Pilots connected me to the world and I wanted to do the same.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have mentors at SkyWest and they have spoken so highly of the company over the years that I wanted to be a part of it.

When I first met SkyWest pilots, I was a freshman in college attending the Women in Aviation Conference. I was a shy student pilot and went to look at the exhibit booths. It was after the market had crashed, so the conference mood wasn’t the happiest. However, the SkyWest booth was something different. Everyone was still smiling there. I made my way over to the booth so I could talk to them.

I mentioned that, “I’m far from the airlines because just a student pilot, I’m waiting to take my private practical.” I was corrected by a female captain as she told me to have pride in every step of my career. A male pilot working the booth said the same thing. Before I knew it, the pilots were sharing their flight training experiences with me and we talked for a long time. I walked away from the booth with a nice SkyWest CRJ200 model (which is on my bookshelf to this day!), business cards, and a great impression of what could be a future employer. I still remain in contact with those pilots, and I went back to the SkyWest booth every year after that… and now I’m working for SkyWest.

I returned to that booth every year because I enjoyed seeing the friends and mentors I met my first year, and because I enjoyed meeting new SkyWest pilots every year.  As the years progressed, I knew I wanted to be at SkyWest. The company attracted me so much because of the great personalities of their employees. When flying on SkyWest flights in college, I saw pilots and flight attendants go out of their way to make the passengers’ flight more enjoyable. Seeing the pilots jump out of the flight deck to help the elderly even on a quick turn tells me that they aren’t here just to fly the plane. That’s the kind of co-workers I want to be surrounded with, and I’m so lucky to have that now.

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

Usually people are impressed! I get asked how young I am, or how I became a pilot.

One of the things I get the most is marveled eyes with, “But you don’t look like a pilot!” I then often ask them, “Well, what does a pilot look like?” Their response is usually laughter and something along the lines of, “Well, I didn’t expect a young, cheerful girl wearing lipstick!”

Sometimes people ask me if I’m really a pilot (even in my uniform!) or “Can girls really be pilots?” and that saddens me because that shows that some people out there still don’t have a good concept of female pilots, but it’s a rare occasion… that stigma is changing with the increasing number of female pilots!

On my last trip, I had an older Spanish-speaking man who needed help finding his gate. After I helped him look at the gate information, he paused to look at me up and down. He asked me what I did, so I told him that I was a pilot. He was so ecstatic to meet a female pilot that he proceeded to hug me and kiss me on the cheek! It took me by surprise, but he told me to always keep my chin high. He was a military pilot in his country, and he never worked with female pilots but thought it was so neat to meet one.

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

Get out to your nearest airport and take a discovery flight!  The next time you fly on an airline, ask the pilots to see the flight deck! You never know what might spark your interest. Have curiosity, and ask the pilots questions. If you want to be a pilot, don’t be shy about it. I’ve done many Girl Scout Aviation Merit Badge seminars with The Ninety-Nines, and so many girls are shy about liking airplanes, math or science. I think it’s wonderful to be engaged in those subjects. Know that flying is for boys and girls!

IMG_5197Just this past weekend, I had my first all-female crew. I was excited because it had only been a month of flying with SkyWest. On one of the turns, we had a mother and her daughter visit the flight deck. Although that family flew a lot, they had never seen a female pilot… let alone an all-female crew! The little girl walked up to the flight deck, pushed by her mother. She was shy, but said hi. After asking us what some of the buttons and switches did, she asked, “Why are you the first girl pilots I met?” I didn’t know what to say… but then after getting plastic wings she whispered, “I want to be a pilot too, so I can look pretty and see the clouds every day.” My heart was instantly warmed and I saw myself in that girl.

There are many resources now that can help with females in their journey of becoming a pilot. I am a member of Women in Aviation and The Ninety-Nines, both great organizations that have helped me become who I am. These two organizations are wonderful ways to get involved in aviation not only for friendship, but for mentoring, scholarships, memories and more. Through these organizations I’ve made great friends that each advanced in their own field of aviation. I’ve been fortunate to receive scholarships for flight training as well. There are opportunities for all levels, from student pilots to type ratings!

These organizations also have top notch mentoring programs built into them. I was a part of them as a college student, and now I’m the one giving advice to younger girls! Sometimes I find it hard to believe, but then I know that I made it where I am today because of others that helped me.


SkyWest supports Women in Aviation and will be attending the 2016 Conference March 10-12. The pilot recruiting team will also be holding on-site interviews for those who are ready to take their career to new heights. Learn more about flying at SkyWest and apply today by visiting www.skywest.com.

Check out this blog post featuring SkyWest Captains, Mary Conti, Suzy Garrett, and Jen Johnson. Not only have they realized their dream of flying, but they continue to set an example for other young women and girls to follow.

How I Became a SkyWest Pilot: Julie Hafen

McKall Morris
Corporate Communications Manager

Julie Hafen – a CRJ first officer for SkyWest Airlines, discovered aviation as a teenager and has been hooked ever since. Check out how she got started as a pilot and what a typical day is like for her at SkyWest.IMG_1158

As a teenager, I always thought I would enjoy flying and traveling for my career, but it never occurred to me that I could actually be the pilot until I was 17 years old. I took an intro to aviation class at my local college and fell in love with aviation. Problem was, however, that I had never even set foot on an airplane, let alone flown one. So for my 18th birthday, my parents flew me to Texas, where my grandfather, who had his private pilot’s license, took me flying.

When I got home from that trip I immediately registered for the aviation degree at Utah Valley University and started my training in the fall of 2003. A few years after I started my schooling and flight training, I earned my Certified Flight Instructor (CFI). I instructed for five years because I got hooked – hooked on the feeling of being able to help others earn their wings…giving others their dreams. For me, it was by far the best way to build time toward becoming a commercial pilot.

I decided to apply at SkyWest Airlines after attending the Women in Aviation conference in 2012. I was happy fight instructing, but after speaking to the numerous pilots at the SkyWest booth, I decided I wanted to take the next step and become a SkyWest pilot. There were many airlines I spoke to at this conference, but the pilots at SkyWest were the most friendly and easy to talk to, and it was clear that they enjoyed their careers. After months of studying I felt ready for an interview and submitted my application. IMG_2212.JPG

SkyWest interviewed me shortly after, and I was officially hired only days after my interview. Once hired, I had two weeks to get all my documents ready and to prepare for ground school. Training was a whirlwind of more learning than I even knew possible, but it was worth it. It took me a few months after training to feel completely comfortable as a first officer, but I knew I made the best decision by changing my career from a flight instructor to an airline pilot.

Here is a tiny glimpse of a day in my life at SkyWest:

I show up for work at least 45 minutes prior to our first departure and spend a few minutes meeting the crew; I have had the opportunity to fly with some pretty great captains and flight attendants at SkyWest. Together we look at any deferred items on the aircraft (inoperative items that are not required to be fixed immediately), the weather and any other pertinent information for the flight.

Once we head out to the aircraft we each have our duties that need to be completed before we depart. Typically the first officer is the one to do the walkaround/preflight inspection while the captain completes some checklist items.

After the passengers and baggage are on the plane, we complete a weight and balance (it’s not just something for general aviation), and figure out our speeds for takeoff and cruise. On the plus side, we don’t always have to do it by hand.

Before we start the engines for the first flight each day – we might fly one to six legs in a day – the captain and I decide who will fly which legs. Some captains like to alternate each leg, some like to always fly first… it doesn’t really matter, but know that you will generally be flying as much as the captain is – they don’t get to have all the fun. And whoever is flying will do a briefing before each flight including the current weather, expected taxi route, departure procedure, pertinent NOTAMs, etc.

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Julie with her all-female flight crew on the recently retired EMB120

If we are done with our day early enough, we will usually get together as a crew to do something fun. There are such great people at SkyWest, it is great being able to hang out outside of work and to get to know each other a bit better.

My quality of life at SkyWest has been so much better than it was as a flight instructor. As an instructor I worked 10-14 hour days for five or six days a week. It was rewarding work, but it was a lot of work. At SkyWest, I usually work four days a week and get paid for more hours than I did when I was teaching. I am also able to be home much more and spend time with the people that matter most to me. Quality of life is very important to me, which is one of the reasons I chose SkyWest over the other regional airlines out there.

Flying isn’t really work for me; it’s more like a hobby that I get paid for! Of course there are frustrating days that get interrupted with weather or maintenance delays, but for me those days seem few and far between. I am happy with the career I chose. I have been at SkyWest for almost three years, flying the EMB 120 Brasilia and now the CRJ, and have never regretted my decision to work for such a great company.