Tag Archives: How I Became a Pilot

Celebrating the U.S. Air Force’s Birthday

SkyWest is home to more than 3,000 Veterans and active-duty servicemen and woman, including hundreds who served in the U.S. Air Force. As we celebrate the Air Force’s 73rd birthday today, we asked a few of our MSP-based pilots to share how their experiences from the Air Force prepared them for working at SkyWest.

Adam Galloway, CRJ Captain, MSP
Galloway is a Major and is a C-130 pilot. When he is not flying for SkyWest or the Air Force, he enjoys working on his Stinson.

Adam Galloway

Adam Galloway

Galloway joined the Air Force after being inspired by his grandfather’s stories as a bomber pilot in WWII. He meet his wife his wife when they both were deployed.

Galloway started as a maintainer, and says this background makes it easier to draw the entire picture of what’s going on inside the airplane.

Although Galloway spends a lot of time flying, he says the differences in military flying and commercial flying keep him balanced.

“Military flying involves more stick and rudder, while commercial flying is almost completely instrument flying,” said Galloway.

Joining SkyWest in 2013, Galloway said he has enjoyed learning about the inner workings of an airport and all pieces that must be put together for successful commercial flying.

“Flying commercially allows me to meet a lot of new people and visit a lot of places I’ve never seen before,” said Galloway.

Mike Nelson

Mike Nelson

Mike Nelson, CRJ Captain, MSP
Nelson was a crew chief on the F-16 from 1994-97, flight engineer on the C-130H3 from 1997-03, and a flight engineer on the E-4B (747-238) from 2003-16.

Nelson always loved being around planes while he was growing up and took every opportunity to learn about them. He acquired his PVT, COM, INST, CFI, CFI-ME in 1992 and joined the Air Force in 1994, with aspirations of becoming a fighter pilot.

“Before I knew it, I was 21 and was too old to be commissioned to go through undergraduate pilot training. I decided to take another road to get onto the flight deck…flight engineer,” said Nelson jokingly.

When it came to transitioning from the military to a civilian career, Nelson says that SkyWest was the only airline he interviewed with because he was knew it was the place for him. Four years later he continues to be extremely grateful to be a “SkyWester.”

Nelson doesn’t feel his status as a Veteran makes him stand out more than any other employee, but he does wear his Air Force tie tack with great pride and dignity. He loves working with crewmembers who are also Veterans and enjoys the comradery and friendly banter between the different branches of service.

“When another one of my crewmembers is a Veteran, the flight is like hosting a family reunion, regardless of which branch of service,” said Nelson. “For the most part, coming from the military to SkyWest was a seamless transition.”

Adam Bixler CRJ First Officer MSP
“I am a third-generation military member,” said Bixler. “I joined the Air Force to do my part in serving and protecting our country.”

Adam Bixler (right) and his brother

Adam Bixler (right) and his brother

Bixler started his career as a Maintainer with the Air Force and noted that having a maintenance background gives him a unique perspective to the larger operations at SkyWest. In addition to flying at SkyWest, he is also a crew chief on the C-130 Hercules.

“There is an old saying, ‘without mechanics, pilots are just people with cool sunglasses,’” laughs Bixler, who then points to the entire team who makes up a successful flight.

“SkyWest is a family,” said Bixler, “They care about their employees. I have seen this proven many times over, and I intend to continue to do my part to ensure this tradition of excellence continues.”

“I have two of the greatest jobs that I can imagine.” stated Bixler, “SkyWest and the Air Force have each given me many opportunities and experiences for which I am eternally grateful.”

Thank you to Captain Galloway, Captain Nelson, and First Officer Bixler, along with all those who have or are presently serving in our military. We appreciate your service and are glad to have you as part of the SkyWest team. And Happy Birthday to the United States Air Force!



My SkyWest Journey: SAN and BOI Pilots Return Home with New Bases

Today, two new SkyWest domiciles opened: San Diego (SAN) and Boise, Idaho (BOI). With the addition of SAN and BOI, SkyWest now has 17 domiciles in operation across the country. To hear about how having more domicile options improved their quality of life, we reached out to two captains who are returning to their hometowns. Read below to hear how their SkyWest Journey has brought them home!

BOI-SAN-1024x684whiteCaptain Mark Valentine was born and raised in Boise, Idaho. When SkyWest announced it would be opening a Boise domicile (BOI), Captain Valentine was among the first to apply for a transfer. While he didn’t expect to hold the base right away, he was thrilled when it got awarded.

“I can now drive 10 minutes to work!” Captain Valentine said. “It is so much more convenient than the two-hour commute I had before.”

Boise is where Captain Valentine was first introduced to his love of flight. When he accompanied his father on a trip to a business meeting, 6-year-old Mark stayed awake for the entire flight while his father fell asleep. The family friend who was flying the aircraft noticed the young boy attentively awake and offered to have him come into the cockpit.

“What 6-year-old is going to turn down an offer to fly a plane?” Captain Valentine said. “I remember sitting in the cockpit for probably half an hour, amazed that I was flying the plane.”

That was all it took for Captain Valentine to establish his new dream.

After serving in the military for a few years, Captain Valentine returned home to Idaho and enrolled in a flight school to pursue his childhood dream.

In June of 2012, Captain Valentine upgraded from a smaller airplane to SkyWest. He says that once he was hired, he has never looked back!

“The people at SkyWest are what make this place so unique,” Captain Valentine said. “The culture here is much more like a family than anything else.”

IMG_0286Captain Rick Salvador has been living in San Diego since being hired at SkyWest over 16 years ago, though until today he’s been commuting to his LAX base. When he heard he was awarded the new San Diego (SAN) domicile, he responded like a true Californian:

“There’s no more traffic and driving up the 405 to get to LAX. The quality of life just got so much better!”

Captain Salvador started his career as a SkyWest pilot in 2001. When SkyWest retired the Brasilia in 2014, he took the next available CRJ class and spent two years based out of SkyWest’s Denver (DEN) hub before transferring to LAX.

Captain Salvador looks forward to being based back in his hometown after three years of commuting. He is excited for the opportunities the base presents, and the chance to mentor new pilots.

“I really enjoy the camaraderie with the people at SkyWest, especially at the smaller domiciles,” said Captain Salvador. “It truly makes for a pleasant place to work.”

SkyWest flies in partnership with four major airlines including United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and Alaska Airlines. These partnerships give our pilots more opportunity and exposure than any other regional airline pilot. Check out our pilot career guide for more information, and Take Control of your Career with SkyWest.


How I Became a SkyWest Pilot: Julie Hafen

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.


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.