Noemi Baechi and her family moved from Switzerland to the United States in 2012, where her love for aviation began. With a recommendation from a current Air Wisconsin Captain, Noemi join our family as a First Officer in 2022. She has quite a following on social media, watching her break barriers and continue to soar throughout her journey in commercial aviation. We are so grateful that Noemi landed at Air Wisconsin and can inspire other women and men to join the flightline. We had the chance to do a Q&A with Noemi!
How/why did you choose Air Wisconsin?
I got all my ratings at a local flight school in South Florida and decided to be a banner pilot to build my flight time.
I enjoyed the thrill of picking up a banner, dealing with strong winds in a very lightweight plane and the pure fun flying a Piper PA-18 Super Cubaround the beaches. Through this experience, I was able to gain around 1300 hours of solo time.
I did my Private and instrument rating at NS Aviation (KHWO) and finished my commercial single and multi-engine land at Orange Wings aviation in Pompano, I flew with a current captain at Air Wisconsin, Tennyson Francis.
I ended up choosing Air Wisconsin since it is a smaller, more family-oriented airline. Although I have just started to work for this company, I have already noticed the camaraderie amongst colleagues and the flight training department. It truly has a strong support system.
Another reason why I chose Air Wisconsin is because there was no training delay, and I was able to start my Indoc class within 10 days from my interview.
When did you know you wanted to be a pilot?
I didn’t realize I wanted to be a pilot until I was 21, it never seemed an option for me as I don’t have any family in aviation. I happened to drive by a local regional airport and thought it would be interesting to try it just for fun. The second I took off, I fell in love with aviation, and the rest is history.
Why do you love your job?
I am still very new at this company, but so far it has been an absolute blast to work with so many interesting individuals. Flying a jet is very different from my previous job, flying banners along the beach.
So far, I truly enjoy how everything is more fast paced, and is keeping me on my toes. The thrill of having a new overnight or fly to a destination I haven’t been to before. And of course… the views!
Why do you love working in this industry?
I love working in this field because everyone helps each other out and you are able to learn from many Captains, it is a challenge that pushes you, you can experience something new every day, and have the opportunity to travel around the world with your family!
Advise/encouragement to women entering this field?
My advice is to go out there and take a chance! Although you may not have family in aviation or have never thought about being a pilot before, I’d say just try and see how you like it! It’s not always going to be easy, there are going to be lots of challenges and sacrifices but in the end, it will be so worth it! One of my favorite quotes from Wayne Gretzky “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” so go out there and apply to that job you were too scared for or try something new you never thought you’d do!
The aviation community is filled with many different niches, but we are lucky enough to have two worlds of aviation combine through the talents of Randy W. Ball, an Air Wisconsin captain who doubles as one of the most well-known airshow jet performers in the US. With over 1400 performances to date Randy keeps a busy schedule between being a captain of a CRJ-200 and flying over 43 other types of aircrafts, of which have been manufactured in 9 different countries.
Randy loves what he does and the flexibility that flying for us gives him. Being able to continue his passion in jet flying and air shows while still flying passengers for his “regular” job. Randy’s love for aviation started as a child where he found his inspiration from his great uncle who flew 51 missions in the B-17 Flying Fortress, little did Randy know that he would be sharing the skies with B-17s in shows later in his life. While following the typical path for an eager young aviation enthusiast, he soloes at the age of 18 and has now been a pilot for 36 years, with 32 of those years being airshow flying!
Arguably the best-known aircraft Randy flies is the MiG-17, which Randy has flown in many shows but also as the “threat/aggressor” aircraft with the USAF F-4 Phantom for film. Randy’s true goal is to inspire the next generation of pilots as he knows they are the future. The path to being an airline captain is long and hard, but what childhood dreams are made of. Randy is evidence that having a foundation with an airline can be the solid ground while still allowing pilots to explore other areas of aviation.
Randy’s team is also an inspiration to those who have found a different love in aviation. Erin Mae, has had a love for aircraft since she was young and joined the U.S. Navy to pursue the maintenance side of the industry. After her time in the Navy ended, she found herself meeting Randy Ball himself in Tyler, TX and got to see his amazing jet for herself. Erin is now the “Crew Chief” for Randy, running every angle of the ground operations and also performing maintenance on the aircraft.
Looking to become a captain like Randy at Air Wisconsin? We are excited to announce that we will be transitioning our fleet with a new partner, American Airlines, beginning in early 2023. Our industry-leading benefits and work rules make us the regional of choice for many pilots.
Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
Starting First Officer pay: $60.90/flight hour
Captain pay range: $102.43 – $156.20
First Officers earn up to $73,000 no contract bonus
Captain qualified new hires earn $150,000 no contract bonus
75 hour minimum monthly pay guarantee
Per Diem: $1.80
100% Cancellation and Dead Head Pay
Industry leading Medical, Dental, & Vision Insurance options
Most aggressive 401(k) in the industry, with up to an 8% match and 3% guaranteed contribution
Air Wisconsin joins with Lehigh Valley International Airport’s return of its “North Pole Express” for families with children battling cancer.
Over the weekend, Air Wisconsin had the chance to be the aircraft used in Lehigh Valley International Airport’s return of its “North Pole Express” for families with children battling cancer. The Pediatric Cancer Foundation of Lehigh Valley Inc. provided this charity flight experience to 14 families from the area after taking a two-year break due to COVID-19.
We were proud to be able to supply both aircraft and crew for the flight, with an added meaningful touch, First Officer Ryan Melendez is a Leukemia survivor himself. Melendez was asked what being a part of this experience meant to him, he said “This experience is extra special to me, as I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at the age of 17. The thing that motivated me most when I was going thru treatment at the children’s hospital was seeing all the kids younger than me going through that same thing I was, but with big smiles on their faces as they ran up and down the halls of the pediatric oncology floor. It is very exciting to me to have this opportunity to be the pilot of the North Pole flight and to give this experience to such well deserving warriors.” Ryan was able to beat cancer and is now living his dream of being a pilot at an airline, with hopes to keep pushing himself and his career to new limits.
Melendez knows just how special this day is for these kids who are often stuck within a hospital for a lot of the holiday season and he had this encouraging message for them “I want to tell them that they truly are the strongest individuals in this world, and though they may not understand it at this moment, one day they will look back and realize there is nothing too big in life that they cannot accomplish if they put their minds to it. I’d also tell them that this is just a small roadblock in their lives to be, and how important it is to try and find the positives in any situation, even where it may seem like there is none. As strange as it sounds, I am grateful that I had cancer, because it allowed me to do things in life that before I never would have thought was possible. Cancer is the reason that I am a pilot today, the reason I was compelled to start a non-profit organization which has raised over $500,000 for pediatric cancer research, and most importantly, cancer is the reason why I never take any second for granted and live my life to the fullest day in and day out.
The crew of flight attendants were all aware of the privilege of being able to bring this experience to these children. Flight attendant Hope Frank said “We should all feel joy. Life is about wonder and magic. I am happy to bring a spark of magic to the children and their families!”
One of the other flight attendants on crew for the North Pole flight was Gino Hoffman, who’s heart for children and families really gave him appreciation for the event that day. Hoffman said, “I feel honored to be part of this flight. I come from a large family, and I am a Dad myself. I have fostered and adopted over 10 children and have 22 nieces and nephews. Family is the most important facet of my life. Helping children has been a calling of mine because I have always believed that Children’s needs should come before our own as adults. Some are not able to help for various reasons but for those of us that are, Children can know they have trusted adult allies to help them through the good and difficult times, whatever they may be faced with. As a foster parent, I have experienced so many scenarios with children that have experienced trauma including life-threatening illnesses. At the end of the day, their difficult journey is one no child should go at alone. It takes a village. Most importantly, seeing the smile on their faces during the Holiday season brings me happiness. I remember how happy I was as a young boy this time of year and would have only dreamed of the opportunity to go to the “North Pole”. Sometimes it’s the little things for kids that bring them joy.”
The in-air experience for the children and their families was carefully crafted by the crew with safety regulated decorations in the cabin and special holiday treats, chocolate covered pretzels, organic snack options, holiday items and Air Wisconsin swag. There were also children’s Christmas song booklets to sing along to carols, Santa hats and jingle bells, and more for all to have a fun time! The flight attendant crew was in holiday sweaters and Santa hats in lieu of traditional uniforms. The children will also receive a Christmas poem written for them on how aircraft 471 saved Christmas.
The flight went off without a hitch and each child was given a memory they won’t soon forget. Flight attendant Barb Bognar said it best “It is an honor to find a way to make these kids smile. I think moments like this remind me of how precious life is and to enjoy every moment.”
As we all know, aviation is more than just planes and the people flying them, it takes entire teams and crews both on the ground and in the sky to have a safe and effective operation. Taking the time to highlight some of the lesser talked about areas of aviation is something that we strive to do. To provide not just transparency into what it takes to be a successful airline, but also highlight some of the jobs that people don’t even realize are available to them (& they come with flight benefits of course!). This week our team took the time to dig a little deeper into life as a Maintenance Controller and here is what they had to say!
You may be asking, what does a Maintenance Controller do? Maintenance (MX) Control is the tip of the spear for Maintenance Operations. All unscheduled maintenance defects are routed through the SOC Dispatchers to our MX Control team. Once notified of a discrepancy the MX Controller will utilize either company, contract or on-call maintenance vendors throughout the system to facilitate any required repairs. Once the repairs are complete and the Controller is satisfied with the airworthiness of the aircraft, the aircraft will be returned to service by the MX Controller and passed back to the operation for continued revenue service.
What is your favorite part of coming to work? “Working with the professionals within the SOC to juggle aircraft and maintenance assets as needed to best support the operation.” said Russ R. who is a current MX Controller for us, he continued “The family of employees within the SOC are all just trying valiantly to keep a flying scheduled complete and on time. Every day is filled with different challenges and surprises, and yet the goal remains the same, keep the planes and people safe and on-schedule.”
Chris B. who is also on the maintenance team said “Aviation is a very tight knit community. Coming to work every day dealing with the same people it becomes fun family experience.” Chris continued, “Aviation isn’t for everyone but it is for someone who likes fixing things and coming up with solutions. For the younger employees, they should get as much travel in when they can and work on different airframes to better their career.” Chris comes from a factory background. When that factory shut down he went to get his A&P because he knew he always liked fixing things with his hands and aviation lets him do that in many different ways.
When talking about the team at Air Wisconsin Chris H., Director of Maintenance, said “The team is diverse. No two people on the team have walked the same path to get to this point in their career. We have had controllers fresh out of A&P School, Military veterans and Reservists, as well as internal and external line/hangar technicians.” Chris’s own background lies in 9 years working on F-18s as a jet engine mechanic, Quality Assurance Inspector after which he transitioned to Tech School where he earned degrees in Airframe/Powerplant Maintenance, and Advanced Electronics. Through those studies he earned his A&P and AET ratings.
Russ has a different story and this is his second tour of duty with Air Wisconsin. His first career spanned nearly 20 years, almost all within maintenance. A two year sabbatical into Health Care Facility Management taught him that his true love is aviation, so he returned to us!
Now you may be wondering “How do I know if I am the right fit for a MX controller?” The skills needed are a strong work ethic, positive attitude, a can-do mindset, and a willingness to learn. Russ said “I’d say 1 in 10 mechanics might be good a maintenance controller. The one is a person who gets excited by weird problems, seeks out the challenge of making our operation succeed yet will stand firm ensuring our aircraft are safe and airworthy.”
Air Wisconsin has been operating as a regional airline in the United States since 1965. We currently perform flying services for United Airlines as United Express throughout the Midwest and East Coast, operating CRJ-200 regional jets. Starting in 2023, we will be transitioning our fleet with our new partner, American Airlines. We are excited for this opportunity to join the American team and support their unrivaled regional network bringing passengers from their hometowns, large and small, to hubs that provide them with a gateway to countless travel destinations.
We would love to have you join the Air Wisconsin team!
See how WAI-SE WI Chapter, MKE, and AWA inspired future female pilots through a hands-on aviation event
On Saturday September 24th, an eager group of almost 50 girls woke up with a little extra energy to get to the airport where the fall Milwaukee air would soon be filled with the smell of jet fuel and the sounds of questions would be bouncing off the flight deck. It was Girls in Aviation Day.
Girls in Aviation Day is a free event for girls ages 12-18 and is put on by the Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter of Women in Aviation, hosted by the Milwaukee Mitchell Airport, and supported by us (Air Wisconsin Airlines). This event gave the youth a chance to talk with aviation professionals, learn more about different careers in aviation, and of course get to test out the view from the left seat. This experience offers a behind-the-scenes look at the airport and airport operations, as well as asking real-time questions to women already in the industry.
“I witnessed the excitement and the energy of the girls gathered inside the airport, flying airplane simulators, exploring potential aviation careers, and talking with mentors. Potential aviatrices were eagerly asking questions, but once inside the aircraft, and especially sitting in the pilot seats, the questions were replaced with wide eyes and big smiles,” said Evan McMillen, Assistant Chief Pilot of Air Wisconsin Airlines, “What an amazing and uncommon opportunity for young women to explore a world that has mostly been male dominated, and to discover that a career in aviation is within their reach!”
Aside from the benefit of this event to the aviation community, it also brought joy to the our Domicile city of Milwaukee as well as most of the youth attending were from many local schools in the Milwaukee area. Mandi Neumann, Flight Attendant for Air Wisconsin Airlines, said “We were able to show the girls airport operations, have them fly flight simulators, and tour a Jet Out TBM and an Air Wisconsin CRJ-200. We also had representatives from the 128th Air Refueling Wing. The girls were very excited that they were able to sit in the flight deck of the CRJ-200 where they got to have their picture taken in the captain’s seat.” Mandi made note that one girl even exclaimed,
“This is so cool! I didn’t think I would actually get to see where the pilots fly the airplane!”
Not only did they get to see the cockpit of the aircraft, another Air Wisconsin flight attendant named Hope Frank was able to show the girls the cabin and the galley while Mandi led the tour of the flight deck.
Mandi is also the membership chair of the Southeastern WI chapter of WAI and said “Our chapter has at least two of these outreach events each year. I think it’s important to be involved in the community. A lot of the girls at this event had never been on an airplane before. This event gave them the opportunity to see that there are many career opportunities in aviation that they may not have considered before.”
We are honored to be able to help represent the commercial aviation industry at these events and be a reliable source to the future pilots of the world. Creating experiences that last a lifetime for the ones that will someday (hopefully) be in charge of the skies.
Special thanks to Mim R., Evan M., Robin B., Mandi N., Hope F. and Hanna B. & Sheila A. for assisting with bringing an aircraft over, assisting with escorting, giving the girls a tour of our a/c and working the swag table.
For more information on Air Wisconsin Airlines please visit our site at https://www.airwis.com/ and if you have any media inquiries or would like to share event photos please contact Kayla at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on Women In Aviation- SE Wisconsin Chapter and their outreach efforts please email email@example.com with questions
First Officer Ryan M. recently shared his story of resilience and determination that led him to fulfill his dream of flying.
Just six days into Ryan’s senior year of high school, his entire world came to a sudden stop. Prior to this day, Ryan was a competitive golfer, multinational champion equestrian, musician, and a 4.2 GPA student who had his sights set on attending a highly ranked four-year university.
Starting in September of 2015, Ryan began running a low-grade fever. For three days, his mother took him to see the doctor, each time being told, “it’s just a virus, it will pass.” During the time he was sick, he became lethargic, had a high fever, and by the fourth day, his high fever still wouldn’t break, and he threw up to the point that the blood vessels in his eyes burst, leaving the whites of his eyes completely red. His mother rushed him back to the doctor’s office, where a new doctor took immediate action, which assisted in saving his life.
He was rushed to Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego by ambulance and put into the Intensive Care Unit. While in the trauma room, about 15 doctors and nurses worked frantically, trying to save Ryan’s life. With his blood pressure so low, his body went into septic shock, causing his organs to begin to shut down. His family was told there was a high chance Ryan would not survive the night. The following day, he remained in critical condition in the ICU.
It was during this time while in the hospital that Ryan made a decision that would alter his future. While lying in the ICU, he looked up at his dad and said, “I want to become a pilot.” Ryan’s dad was a pilot (private pilot) himself, and he immediately rushed to the nearby airport, which was only five minutes from the hospital, and picked up an assortment of books and Ryan’s first log book. That was the moment Ryan truly started to focus on reaching a new goal in his life, and he was determined to fight against whatever was going to stand in his way so he could fly!
On Sept. 10, 2015, the bone marrow test returned and Ryan was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) and began intensive chemotherapy. The first month of treatment was extremely difficult for Ryan and his family.
Despite being given a life-altering diagnosis, Ryan was determined to not let cancer define him. In November, just over two months since being diagnosed, he went up for his first flight! Flying was the one place Ryan felt he had total control over his life and was his way to escape the hardships of chemotherapy. It was also during that first flight that his oncology doctor called and left a message saying Ryan had reached remission.
However, that was not the end of his treatment. Ryan endured almost 3.5 years of chemotherapy while also continuing his flight lessons. Since he was undergoing treatment, he could not qualify for a medical. Ryan had supportive instructors to help him continue to pursue his dreams of flying. Ryan was then told that he could obtain a Sport License, and his instructor, Bob (who is commonly known as the Taildragger Guru of Southern California), introduced Ryan to tail draggers, which led to his decision to buy his first airplane in April of 2018.
Ryan got his first airplane, a 1946 Aeronca Chief named “Snoopy” and soon after became a certified pilot with a Sport License. He never altered his end goal and persevered through his drive, determination, and passion for flying. Upon finishing treatment, Ryan set out to get his medical and was granted a Class 1 by the FAA.
Ryan continued his flying journey by obtaining his Private Certificate and then shortly after getting his Commercial Certificate. All his tailwheel time led to him getting to tow banners for a company called “FlySkyAds Aerial Advertisement” based out of New Jersey. After his first summer flying the Jersey Shore and the New York City skyline, Ryan convinced his boss to let him fly 2 Super Cubs across the country to start a Southern California banner operation. Ryan successfully built the new operation from the ground up, training and hiring pilots, scheduling banners, and getting permission from airports to be able to operate the business out of them. The once two-airplane operation based solely out of New Jersey now has six airplanes in its fleet spread between the east and west coast, thanks to the work done between Ryan and his old boss. During this time, Ryan was also attending The University of Southern California, where he graduated with honors with a major in Political Science and a Minor in Music on May 15, 2021.
The moment finally came in August of this year when Ryan hit 1500 hours in his airplane, submitted his applications, and decided he wanted to join the Air Wisconsin family. Almost 6 years after Ryan told his dad he wanted to become a pilot, Ryan never let cancer define what his future could be.
Ryan’s dream became a reality this year when he piloted his first commercial airline flight as a First Officer with Air Wisconsin Airlines while his parents sat happily on board in the back!
He noted, “My favorite thing about Air Wisconsin is the culture the company has been able to create. To me, it truly feels like a family, as I get to see familiar faces of pilots and flight attendants every time I’m walking down the halls at the airports. Everyone has an outstanding personality and is truly fun to be around after a long day’s work.”
When asked what encouragement Ryan has for aspiring pilots, he remarks, “I hope my story shows that “even in extreme cases of adversity (whether or not it’s one’s goal to be a pilot), it is truly possible to follow and achieve any dream you have. Before my Illness, I was set on my plan of graduating high school at the top of my class, attending a 4-year university to play D1 golf, and then going on to law school to become a lawyer. What my journey showed me was that sometimes life can alter the course you had planned, and even though at the time it may seem as though your life is ruined, the reality is you have total control of the life you chose to live after that adversity. You can either choose to dwell on the negatives or find the positives hidden in the situation, which just might lead you to the life you never thought you could have. Flying to me is the greatest freedom that one could ask for, and I cherish every second I get to spend in the sky.”
Air Wisconsin is excited to have Ryan as a part of our family, and we thank him for sharing his story of never giving up while chasing his dreams.
Psychologists often debate the influence of nature versus nurture and how each may impact our actions and choices as humans. Although we don’t have the answer to one of Psychology’s oldest questions, we can say, when it comes to these three sets of fathers and sons, the desire to work in aviation got passed on to the next generation.
First, meet Paul and Max Gill. Paul started as a Bae146 First Officer at Air Wisconsin in 1998. He is currently a Captain and our Lead Ground School Instructor. Paul’s son Max had the opportunity to fly as a passenger with his dad flying in left seat from Appleton (ATW) to Chicago (ORD) while growing up. Max recently started at Air Wisconsin himself and successfully finished his Initial Operating Experience (IOE) in May. They are pictured together at the Appleton International Airport when Max had an overnight in Appleton, WI during his IOE.
Next up, we have Don and son Jeff Sievert. Don started at Air Wisconsin in 1969 after serving four years in the United States Marine Corps as an F-4 engine test cell mechanic. After 37 years holding various positions at Air Wisconsin, Don retired in 2006 as the Maintenance Planning and Programs Manager. His son, Jeff, started at Air Wisconsin in 2003 after serving four years in the United States Air Force and has been with Air Wisconsin for over 18 years and currently holds our Director of Maintenance position. Jeff had the privilege to work with his dad in the maintenance department for three years and even had a desk located near his father’s for a brief period. Combining their years of service; the Sieverts have provided Air Wisconsin with over 55 years of maintenance experience!
The last duo we would like to introduce is Andy Lundt and his father, Bob Lundt. Andy started as a Ramp Agent with us while he was in college. After school, Andy returned to Air Wisconsin and held various management positions over his 18 years at the Company and is currently our Director of Procurement. Early in Andy’s career, his father, Bob, was also working at Air Wisconsin, managing the Crew Scheduling department. In fact, Bob was the first Crew Scheduler Air Wisconsin employed; he started and grew the department over his 33 years of tenure. Even after Bob retired in 2003, he was instrumental in sharing the stories and artifacts to commemorate our Company’s 50th anniversary in 2015. We hope that Andy continues in his father’s footsteps, collecting mementos and serving as a company historian for many years to come. We would also like to thank these two for their 50 years of combined experience!
Don Sievert and Bob Lundt kindly returned to Air Wisconsin for photos and got an opportunity to reconnect. They toured the new maintenance hanger and reminisced about the early days of our Company, and Fort Wayne was definitely brought up as a key location in our Company’s early years. Don and Bob worked together for many years, and now their sons, Jeff and Andy, interact daily.
We want to thank all six men for sharing their stories and love for aviation running through the generations with a little help from nature and a nudge from nurture.
The dispatcher and the crew share the responsibility of keeping our passengers safe during all phases of flight. Commercial flights in the United States need two people, the pilot in command and the dispatcher, to jointly share responsibility for deeming a flight airworthy. This process begins long before the aircraft takes off to the friendly skies, and all begins with the dispatcher.
Wanting to know more about this critical role in the airline industry, we sat down with several Air Wisconsin Dispatchers to learn a little more about a day in the life of a dispatcher.
A dispatcher’s day starts at 3:30 AM, working at our headquarters in Appleton, WI, in our Systems Operations Center (SOC). Their workspace is situated on the second floor of Appleton International Airport; it’s only pure coincidence they work close to the airport and air traffic control tower. A dispatcher can actually do their job most anywhere as long as they have access to all the necessary software and tools.
A typical Air Wisconsin dispatcher desk has four monitors and an iPad. This configuration allows each team member to keep an eye on the weather on one screen, utilize our flight release software on a second, and see a plot of all our aircraft on the third. The fourth screen displays an intricate phone system that can assist them in quickly communicating with pilots, outstations, and our maintenance team.
Our dispatchers start by carefully reviewing the weather at departing and arrival cities, designing the flight plan, and identifying alternate routes to land to ensure safe travels for our passengers and our crew members. All of this planning is then merged into a flight release.
A flight release can be defined as the formal authorization for the pilot in command to proceed with a flight with both the dispatcher and the pilot in command in control. Additionally, a flight release must contain certain information such as the company name, make, model, and airplane registration. It must include the date of flight, departure, and arrival cities, any alternate airports, weather information, minimum fuel needed to complete the flight, and state the type of operation (instrument flight rules IFR or visual flight rules VFR). Flight releases contain critical detail and must be carefully reviewed every flight.
Planning safe flights and building flight releases are the core of a dispatcher’s work.
While the dispatcher is looking over the route and planning needed fuel, the pilot walks around the plane and reviews the logbook, a running description of all the repairs and maintenance performed on a particular aircraft. If the pilot detects a needed repair on an airplane during his pre-flight inspection, he contacts our Dispatch team. The Dispatcher will then start a conference call with our Maintenance team to discuss how to resolve the problem.
They will determine if the aircraft should be taken out of service for immediate repair or if the plane can still safely and legally fly on its scheduled flights, and the item will be repaired at a later time. This determination is made by using the aircraft’s Minimum Equipment List (MEL). The dispatcher must then note the items to be repaired later on the flight release.
After any MELs are addressed, the dispatcher sends the flight release to the crew, and the pilot agrees the aircraft is airworthy. The pilot prints and signs the release and brings it on the flight for reference.
Next, the dispatcher monitors the flight en route, ensuring no unexpected weather or mechanical issues negatively impact the flight’s progress. In fact, the dispatcher and the pilots can communicate with one another throughout the flight using a system called ACARS. If the pilot in command or dispatcher is of the opinion that a flight cannot operate safely as planned or released, the dispatcher may have the pilot land the plane at a listed alternate or nearest airport.
For example, say a flight was released to fly from Appleton, WI (ATW) to Chicago, IL (ORD). Along the way, snow and ice suddenly covered the airport at ORD. The dispatcher, who is monitoring the flight and weather, would contact the pilot in command and advise them to fly to an alternate airport to land the aircraft safely on a clear runway in Milwaukee (MKE).
Another example of communication between dispatch and the pilots could relate to our passengers. If someone falls ill mid-flight, the pilots can notify the dispatcher, and they can contact the local emergency medical service to assist the passenger as soon as the plane lands.
Our Flight and Dispatch team’s continuous communication between the air and land ensures safe flying for our passengers and crew.
Being a dispatcher takes focus and dedication. We require an FAA Dispatcher License, and once hired, our Dispatchers receive paid training to learn about the specifics of our fleet. After initial training, our dispatchers continue their training, staying current with all regulations and flying at least five hours in the jumpseat of the cockpit annually to observe our pilots in the air.
We appreciate our dispatch team and could not fly without them!
When you think of aviation maintenance, you probably picture mechanics using all sorts of tools to tinker with massive engines and replace various aircraft components. But where do they get the parts and those specialized tools? Inventory Clerks are responsible for the parts and tools in our Technical Stores. Each Maintenance base, aka airplane hangar, has a Technical Store where A&P Mechanics, Avionics Technicians, and Inspectors can get aircraft components or checkout tools of the trade.
Alex joined our Maintenance team as an Inventory Clerk nearly a year ago. In 2020, she was looking for a change of pace. As a nurse, the stress, loss, and magnitude of the pandemic were weighing on her. Alex’s mom suggested exploring our Inventory Clerk opening while deciding on a school to further her medical education. “This sounds fun,” Alex thought. “I can do this every day, and it’s not stressful.”
Every shift as an Inventory Clerk is different. Alex explained, mornings are generally quieter and when they ship out repairable components. “We do more than I thought in the scope of things,” Alex said after reminiscing about starting in the position. “We ship big stuff, and I learned how to use the forklift.” Things pick up during the night shift when the Fed Ex shipment comes. Inventory Clerks catalog the incoming parts in the computer system and stock them on the shelves.
Inventory Clerks also have “pick lists” for every shift, which lists tools and parts the mechanics need to maintain and fix the aircraft at the hangar. Alex searches for things by finding the part number in our computer system, which tells her where the item is stored. “There are so many places we put things,” she explained. Daily, Inventory Clerks also ship parts to other Technical Stores locations.
Communication is essential on our Maintenance team. Let’s say an aircraft needs unexpected maintenance. The necessary part might be in Milwaukee, and the plane might be routed to Dayton because it’s the closest maintenance base. In this case, the Inventory Clerk on duty in Milwaukee would pack the high-priority part and ensure it ended up on one of our planes headed to Dayton. Then, the Inventory Clerk in Dayton might drive to the terminal to pick it up.
While computer and communication skills are vital to this position, don’t worry if you’ve never worked in aviation before. Most of our Inventory Clerks haven’t. If you have a question, ask! You’ll find Air Wisconsin team members are friendly. “I don’t know what different parts and tools do, but I ask, and [the mechanics] are really nice about telling me,” Alex said. “I always love the people I work with, and I enjoy being around planes.” Alex has always loved to travel, but working in a hangar is the first time she’s gotten to see how the aviation industry works behind the scenes.
One of the best things about working at Air Wisconsin–besides the people–is the travel privileges. Alex was no stranger to the concept. Her mom works at DGS, an aviation ground handling company, and Alex used her mother’s travel privileges for years. Now, she’s able to travel to Texas for a wedding, explore the Alaskan wilderness, and visit countless destinations using her own privileges. It’s an exciting perk for all full-time Air Wisconsin employees.
Congratulations! The runway is in sight, and you’ve built enough hours to start seriously considering what regional to fly for as a First Officer. You’ve probably been wondering, which regional airline is the best? “Best” is relative. It’s easy to get caught up in hourly pay or base locations and not consider all of the other elements of a pilot contract that will impact your quality of life. What’s “best” depends on what matters to you and how flying for that airline will complement your life.
It’s vital to do some research and understand the rules of the pilot contract before joining a regional airline. While some regional airlines have similar rules, all of the contracts are different. Here are some items to look for before you make your big decision.
LOOKING BEYOND BLOCK HOUR RATE: HOW DO YOU GET PAID?
What’s the highest paying regional airline? The answer isn’t as simple as block hour pay. Some regional airlines have impressive hourly rates until you realize all of the time you’re not being paid for. The clock tracking a pilot’s hourly pay starts when the passenger door closes prior to takeoff and stops when the door opens for any reason, like a weather delay, gate return, or arriving at your destination. If your flight is delayed due to weather and you’re sitting in the terminal or on the aircraft with the door open, you’re not being paid a block hour rate. It’s essential to look at the rest of the contract and understand how you are paid.
Air Wisconsin, unlike other regionals, has Duty and Trip Rigs (regulations) in place that ensure pilots are paid more for their time and that time is used more efficiently. We calculate pilot pay three ways—by block hour, Duty Rigs, and Trip Rigs—and you get paid the highest number.
Duty Rigs have a 2:1 guarantee. Let’s say your plane experiences a mechanical issue, and you’re sitting for 4 hours waiting for the plane to be fixed. Under Air Wisconsin’s Duty Rigs, you’ll be paid for at least 2 hours of your regular rate. If you fly for a regional without Duty Rigs, you aren’t compensated for that time.
Trip Rigs work the same way with a 4:1 guarantee. For example, if you spend 85 hours away from your base during your 4 day trip, you’ll be paid for at least 21.5 hours of your hourly rate.
Duty and Trip Rigs incentivize the company to schedule trips more efficiently, meaning you’re making the most out of your time away from home. You’ll sit less, so you can build flight hours faster. When you do sit due to weather, maintenance, or another issue, you’re still being compensated for that time.
INCENTIVES: WHAT ARE YOU PAID FOR ADDITIONAL FLYING?
If you want to build hours quickly by picking up trips on your days off, look for a contract that offers extra hourly pay as an incentive. All additional flying at Air Wisconsin is paid at 150% or 200%. The exact amount is determined by the operational resources team based on how critical the trip is to the operation. In some situations, a First Officer or Captain may be given a junior man assignment to cover a critical trip, which is always paid at 200%.
CHECK THE COMMUTER CLAUSE: WHERE DO YOU WANT TO LIVE?
As a pilot, you’ll have a few different crew bases, aka domiciles, throughout your career, especially if you go onto a mainline carrier. A big question pilots ask themselves is, do I move to the base or commute? It’s entirely up to you since everyone’s situation is different. If you have a family, moving may be less desirable. You might also really love your community. If commuting is on the table for you, be sure to check out the commuter clause for any airline whose wings you want to wear.
Air Wisconsin, for example, has a generous, straightforward commuting clause. We say, live where you want. Give yourself two chances to make your show time, which is when you’re supposed to report for duty. If you can’t make it because flights are canceled, delayed, or full, so you can’t deadhead or fly standby, there’s no strike against you. More than likely, our crew schedulers will buy a ticket to get you where you need to be in our operation.
MAKING THE MOST OUT OF VACATION
Who doesn’t love time off to recuperate and use those travel privileges to explore the world? Always check an airline’s pilot contract to see how vacations are handled. Air Wisconsin has an exciting rule in the contract called trip touching.
Our pilots bid for their primary and secondary vacations. When the schedule comes out, if a trip touches any part of your primary vacation, the trip is automatically dropped, and you’re paid in full for the dropped trip. It’s an easy way to turn 7 days off into 21 days off or more!
For secondary vacations, if a trip touches the first day of your vacation, you will not be required to show until noon the following day at the earliest. This gives you more time to report to your domicile. If a trip touches the last day of your secondary vacation, then you will be released no later than noon the day before your first vacation day.
DO THEY HAVE DUAL QUALIFICATION?
Dual qualification is something you hope not to see in your pilot contract and something Air Wisconsin does not do. When some regionals upgrade Captains, they still keep those pilots qualified as First Officers as well. This means those airlines can fly their pilots as First Officers unless they need them in the left seat. An airline may promise to offer an “immediate upgrade” and then require those “Captains” to remain in the right seat unless they are needed in the left. This means you could swap seats mid-trip or spend a day or months in the right seat even though you’re a “Captain.”
At Air Wisconsin, dual qualification is strictly prohibited according to the contract. Captains are upgraded according to seniority and will remain a Captain unless downgrades occur. Downgrades are rare at Air Wisconsin and have only happened when the industry was under extreme duress.
WHEN CAN YOU EXPECT PAY INCREASES?
In addition to yearly longevity pay increases, Air Wisconsin has automatic annual hourly pay increases of 1.5% every October as part of our pilot contract. Additionally, our pilots have seen consistent pay increases every time a new tentative agreement is ratified.
SITS: DO YOU GET A DAY ROOM?
When considering a regional airline, talk to pilots about how many block hours they actually fly and how long they sit, which means how much time they have between flights. It’ll give you a good idea of how much money you’ll make as a pilot for that airline. Of course, Air Wisconsin pilots are paid for more of their time on their road, so keep that in mind.
Some regional airlines offer day rooms, meaning the airline will purchase a hotel room for you if your sit is longer than a certain amount of time. For Air Wisconsin, a crew scheduler will get you a day room for any sit longer than 4.5 hours.
PARTNERSHIPS: WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE CAREER GOAL?
Many pilots consider regionals to be a stepping stone to mainline carriers, and some regionals have pipelines set up to those big names. For example, Air Wisconsin partners with United Airlines in their Aviate program, the most direct and secure path to a United flight deck. Unlike other pipelines, you’re not locked in. You can apply to other carriers if your desires change down the line. You’re also not guaranteed a spot like you are in a “flow” program. Under Aviate, you still need to interview with United and have a record they find acceptable. However, you could get to United faster versus a flow program to another mainline carrier.
Also, Air Wisconsin has plenty of pilots who choose to spend their entire career at the company until they retire at 65. This group of experienced individuals is extremely valuable to the pilot culture and a testament to the quality of life as a pilot at Air Wisconsin.
GO WITH YOUR GUT
After you do your research and talk to pilots who fly for the airline you’re considering, you’ll know what’s best for you. If you still have questions, reach out to the recruiting team.