Tag Archives: Pilot

SkyWest Pilots Help More Women Lean Into Aviation

McKall Morris
Corporate Communications Manager

It’s becoming more and more common to see women flying commercial aircraft, thanks in part to those like Mary Conti, Suzy Garrett, Jen Johnson and many others at SkyWest. Not only have they realized their dream of flying, but they continue to set an example for other young women and girls to follow.

Jen Johnson with an all-female crew on a recent flight.

Captain Jen Johnson with her crew on a recent flight.

Mary Conti
CRJ Captain based in Palm Springs, California
Hired in 1985, Mary is one of SkyWest’s first female captains.

Mary, when did you decide to become a pilot and how did you end up flying for SkyWest?

Mary: When I was 23, I became a pilot for my personal use, because no one hired female pilots (in 1976). I owned my own airplane, and when I finished my bachelor’s degree, I did some instructing. That led to a job selling airplanes, which led to a corporate job. I ended up flying tours out of Moab, Utah which then led me to flying for SkyWest. 

Obviously, there have been some changes in the industry since you began. What have you seen change?

Mary: There are so many more females in aviation now! Only a few airlines were hiring female pilots when I started here. I was one of the first two female captains SkyWest had! There just weren’t many of us, but as more females started applying to be pilots, the entire industry has changed. 

Any advice for women who are considering an aviation career?

Mary: I am so happy with my career choice. I would never trade it. I love flying. I love being out flying even on the more challenging days that test my skills. I think it’s the love of flying that brings pilots in, male or female. So my only advice is, if you have a real love for flying, do it!

And there are real opportunities here at SkyWest. We have really good bases for people. As far as regionals go, SkyWest is the best. It’s a place where people want to stay. A lot of people, like me, come thinking that it’ll just be a starting place and they realize they love it! The company is strong. We’ve lasted all this time. I’ve seen so many other regionals go upside down or go away completely, but SkyWest is a good, stable company. We have a great reputation with our partners. I don’t think SkyWest will be going away any time soon. And above all, no one treats their people as good as SkyWest does.

Suzy Garrett with her family at the Great Wall of China.

Captain Suzy Garrett with her family at the Great Wall of China.

Suzy Garrett
CRJ Captain based in Los Angeles, California
Suzy was the 11th female pilot hired at SkyWest.

Hi Suzy! So, when did you KNOW you wanted to be a pilot?

Suzy: In 8th grade. I was flying out of Phoenix and it was a beautiful day. There were puffy white clouds and blue skies, and I knew right then that I wanted to fly for a living.

 Why do you love being a pilot?

Suzy: The variety of my days; I’m not just in an office.

 What makes SkyWest a good choice for a pilot?

Suzy: Well, my husband is also a pilot and he flew for SkyWest too! We have three kids and I couldn’t have asked for a better fit for our family. I was really able to have my cake and eat it too. Here at SkyWest, I was able to be senior faster and hold a line that worked for my life and my family life. SkyWest made it really easy to tailor my schedule. Having so many domiciles also makes it great!

Plus it’s a great company. It’s really fantastic! I never have worried about being furloughed or the company’s stability. I can count on SkyWest to be reliable. Those looking at choosing which regional to fly at should consider that portion! Don’t just look at the regionals as a quick stepping stone. You want a stable company no matter how long you plan to be there. Choose somewhere that is going to be a strong, stable company.

What other advice would you give someone who is looking at becoming a pilot?

Suzy: Number one would be, don’t take no for an answer and don’t give up. When I first started out to become a pilot, the military was the main path. I’m only 5’1” and the military and the major airlines had height requirements for their pilots. Everyone told me I should just quit, but I kept with it and soon the height requirements went away! Also, back then, there weren’t women pilots. There is a stereotype of who a pilot is and what they look like, but don’t believe it! Just go for it. You don’t have to be a John Wayne character to fly a plane! Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise!

Jen Johnson
ERJ Captain based in Denver, Colorado
Joined SkyWest nearly 13 years ago.

Jen, when did you decide you wanted to be a pilot?

Jen: All I ever thought about was being a pilot. My dad and I flew in a 172 that belonged to one of his friends and I loved it. My dad got sick, but I knew it was for me. There still is nothing else I could see myself doing.

What three words would you use to describe your time flying for SkyWest?

Jen: I love it. I’ve been here 12 years. I’m a check airman on the E175, and I just love it here. I love where we fly. I love the people I work with.

What do you enjoy most about being at SkyWest?

Jen: The comradery here is great. It’s like a family. You know each other and remember each other, and there is a family feeling and people care about each other from the chief pilot down.

Any advice for women considering a career as a pilot?

Jen: You can do it! It’s a male-dominated field, but there’s no good reason you can’t do it. I suggest that you go fly! Once you get in the air one time, and the flying bug bites you (if it bites you like it did me) you’ll be hooked. Go out and try it!

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

Jen: When I was a new hire here, 12 ½ years ago, I might have flown with another female pilot once during the year. I fly with a lot more female first officers now. There’s not a ton – it’s still an exciting thing when I get an all-female crew – but it feels like there are a lot more coming, and that’s a good thing.

SkyWest Airlines is home to more than 11,000 of the best professionals in the airline industry. Those who are ready to pursue their dream of flying should apply online at www.skywest.com today!

SkyWest is also proud to work with groups like Women in Aviation International to help advance the role of women in aviation and will be attending the 27th annual conference in Nashville, Tennessee March 10-12, 2016. Learn more at www.wai.org.

And check out our blog highlighting one of our new CRJ First Officers who, after attending a Women in Aviation Conference, she knew that she wanted to fly for SkyWest.

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.