As we continue to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we recognize one of our pilots whose heritage has played a role in his career as a pilot. CRJ Captain Rene Azahar also credits his father for sparking his passion for aviation and for helping him get to where he is today. Despite the obstacles and hardships that came, Rene has overcome the challenges, achieved his goal, and is now living his dream. Read on as he describes his path to becoming a commercial pilot at SkyWest.
I was born in El Salvador, a small country located in Central America. Back in the 1980s, a dangerous civil war was taking place, so for safety reasons, my parents immigrated my sister and me to America when I was just four years old. It was on that Boeing 737 flight to Los Angeles (LAX) that I fell in love with aviation. From that day forward, the only thing I wanted to be was an airline pilot.
My road to the cockpit was a very long and difficult one. Oftentimes, I felt as though my desire to become a professional aviator would never be more than just a dream. The problem in our family was always a lack of finances. My parents left their careers as lawyers in El Salvador and had to start from scratch in America. On top of that, I had to go through the very lengthy process of becoming a U.S. citizen. The wonderful thing is that while my family lacked financial resources, they more than made up for it through their love, support, and encouragement to always dream big.
My biggest supporter was my dad. When I was a kid, he was always taking me to LAX to watch planes take off and land from all over the world. It was a thrill! When we couldn’t go to the airport, we would build and fly little model airplanes at the park. Later on, we moved to Santa Maria, California (SMX), right next to the airport. From my backyard, I could see the SkyWest Brasilia planes take off and land. I was 13 years old the day I thought to myself: “Someday, I’m going to fly for SkyWest Airlines.” My dad always told me never to give up on this dream of mine and that with hard work and determination, someday I’d find myself wearing a pilot uniform walking towards my jet.
My dad’s words came true. After years of hard work and saving every penny that I could, I was able to go to flight school and obtain my pilot certificates, ratings, and flight time. I applied to SkyWest and my whole family jumped for joy when I was invited to interview for a position as a First Officer! I can’t describe the look on my dad’s face when I told him the interview went great and that I had been offered a position as a SkyWest pilot. That was the proudest moment for me and something that I will never forget.
Unfortunately, my dad passed away 10 days before my SkyWest class date. The day he passed was the saddest time of my life. However, he and I had this dream together and I knew he wanted me to continue. On the first day of my IOE, as I found myself wearing my pilot’s uniform and walking towards my jet, I could feel my dad’s presence right there with me. To this day, when I’m up at cruising altitude as the sun is going down, I can feel my dad sitting in that jumpseat with a big smile on his face, especially when I’m lining up to land on runway 24R in LAX – where he and I stood for hours watching airplanes come in.
When I meet kids who have an interest in becoming pilots but think it might be too hard or too expensive, I tell them, “If a poor kid from El Salvador can do it, you can do it too!”
SkyWest is proud to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and appreciate the contributions of all those like Captain Azahar who continue help make the airline the best in the industry and for encouraging and inspiring the next generation of aviation professionals. To learn how you could become a part of the SkyWest team, check out our Careers page and apply today.