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Allen’s Story

United Airlines First Officer

Brief info

My flying Journey

 As many Pilots, my flying Journey started as a child. The idea of being able to slip the surly bonds of Earth and command a machine into the air fascinated me.I took my first flight lesson when I was 11 years old. I continue to take small lessons here and there throughout the years but could never really take it too seriously because of funds and my age. Once I was finally old enough to really start making a difference in my training, I went back. It felt good to fly again. It felt right. Unfortunately, I got some bad information for my CFI at the time and believed it would be impossible for me to find because of a medical condition.  I thought I would never fly again. I gave up. I moved on. I left being a pilot, but the pilot inside me never left.

Five years later, I had built a life around Aviation as an aerospace lead technician, but never satiated my inner pilot.I wanted more. My daily commute took me past the entrance to the Riverside Airport (KRAL).  One day, I decided to try to take a flight lesson. I knew I couldn’t get my medical to fly professionally, but at least I could be at the controls one more time. I walked into the Riverside fight Academy where I met Johan. We flew in a C – 172 for 1.2 hours  and I didn’t want to come down. At the end of the lesson, Johan asked me “would you ever consider flying professionally?”  I explained to him that I had an uncorrectable deficit in one of my eyes and I told him what I was told, “I can’t get a medical with this bad eye”. Johan looked at me, smirked and said, “I know airline pilots with one eye ball, YOU can be a pilot”.

I went all-in. I started training immediately and never looked back. About halfway through my training, I bought an old PA-28 140 to build time . I got endorsed for repeat solo cross-country flights from my home airport of Banning (KBNG) to Riverside. I flew to my fight lessons. After completing my Private Pilot certificate, I flew my heart out in that little Cherokee to build time. I had a plan. I knew I needed 250 hours for my commercial certificate so I waited till I was just shy of 210 hours to start my instrument training. Johan became my dedicated CFI and I was able to finish my instrument in one month, my commercial certificate the next month and finally my CFI certificate two months later. I  immediately quit my job as an aerospace technician lead and started working at the Flight Academy the very next day as a new CFI.

I made the right choice with RFA. My amazement, I was able to work full-time as a CFI  at the academy.  During my time there, I learned more about flying through teaching than I ever did during my training. Because of my busy schedule, I earned my time fast. I was only a CFI for 13 months before I had enough hours to fly the Big Iron. I immediately got hired by Skywest Airlines on the E – 175.

Skywest showed me the journey was just beginning. After everything I have been through, I learned that I was just getting started at Skywest. I felt like I was doing what I was meant to do. I’m saying North America, exploring the American landscape and culture. I’m meeting new people from all different corners of life. My choice to drop my previous life and let my inner pilot out is reaffirmed on every trip. Although I love it, I knew Skywest was just a stepping Stone. After only flying with Skywest for a little over a year, I was hired by Atlas Air on the B-767.

Atlas is a new chapter, but not the end. I should be finishing my 767 typewriting just a few days shy of my four year anniversary of finishing my Private Pilot checkride.  I don’t think I’m a special in any way or that I got to where I am faster than the normal pilot. I think my success is a testament to the will of a pilot that loves flying and the current state of the industry. WE NEED PILOTS. The demand is there. If you have the passion to pursue your dream of being a pilot, then you’re in luck because EVERY carrier of EVERY kind is in demand of pilots and that demand will double if not triple in the decade to come.

Here are some tips that I believe will help anyone reading this become a professional Aviator.

  1.  Be dedicated. Make it your life. Flyer take a lesson every other day. Find is like a muscle, you have to work it or else it will atrophy.
  2.  plan ahead. Make smart choices with your training and have a plan. Do your best to stick to that plan. Flight training can be very expensive and that is sometimes the greatest hurdle for people learning to fly. Plan it out, make a budget, overestimate and work hard to beat those estimates.
  3. STUDY STUDY STUDY.  It’s not the most glamorous part of flying, But the book work is a very big part of flying. You should go into every written exam, oral exam and check right over prepared. After you pass? Keep studying! It gets easier to study and retain the knowledge the more you do it.
  4. Be prepared to combat failure. There is no perfect pilot and if someone says they are, don’t fly with them. We all make mistakes. Most of us (including myself) have failed at least one check ride or written exam. You will make mistakes in your training.  The mark of a good pilot is one that sees the mistake, corrects it, and passes the next time. Every failure is a learning opportunity. When you do pass an exam, check right or line check, stay humble. No one likes a cocky pilot.
  5. Don’t wait to be told  what to learn. Exceed your cfi’s comedy Pease and your own expectations. If your CFI asked you to read a chapter out of a textbook, read two. Seek knowledge beyond the rating or lesson you are on. Get involved in community forums, watch YouTube videos, talk with other Pilots. If you take control of your knowledge intake, then Ground School will just be a nice content review and study sessions for the final exam.
  6. Never stop learning. Every fight as an opportunity to learn. I’m still learning new things about flying every time I fly. It’s never the same sky twice. 

Blue Skies

Allan Hartzell