Tag Archives: How to become a pilot

Cullen and Jordan's Class Photo

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.

IMG_2423

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.

PlanesOnRamp_2170

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.

FullSizeRender

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.

IMG_1158

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.

IMG_0844

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.