Choosing Your Path to Become a Commercial Pilot

Becoming a commercial pilot is a fun, exciting journey and a long one that will require you to make some decisions fairly early on in the process. Ultimately, your goal is to meet minimum qualifications before you can fly for a commercial airline, but some pilots need more hours and some need less. A handful of factors will determine which path you are on.

Do You Want a Degree?

Whether or not you graduate with a degree from an approved, collegiate-based aviation program, you can be a commercial pilot. Pilots who do not have a degree need to have 1,500 hours total time before flying for a commercial airline and must be at least 23 years old. These requirements are for an unrestricted Airline Pilot Transport (ATP) certificate.

Several factors may allow a pilot to start flying sooner and qualify for a Restricted Airline Pilot Transport certificate (R-ATP). Pilots who have their associate’s degree from an approved program with an aviation major can get their R-ATP with 1,250 hours, and those with their bachelor’s need 1,000 hours total time.

Military pilots qualify for an R-ATP with 750 hours at 21 years old.

What is Your Ultimate Goal?

20% of our pilot workforce will call Air Wisconsin home for the rest of their career. While we do not

require our pilots to have degrees, some U.S. mainline carriers prefer or require pilots to have four year degrees. If you dream of operating large aircraft one day, it’s a good idea to research the requirements for your mainline carrier of choice. It may influence your decision to get or not get a degree.

Air Wisconsin pilots have the opportunity to apply to United’s new pilot career program Aviate. While United prefers a bachelor’s degree, they will and have hired pilots who have other types of experience that they deem comparable.

Learn more about Aviate at unitedaviate.com.

How Do You Want to Build Hours?

Even if you graduate with a four-year degree and after you get your various required ratings, you will likely still have hours left to fly before you can meet minimums. This obviously isn’t a decision you need to make immediately, but as you progress along your journey talk to your instructors and peers to see what you can learn from their experiences.

Some pilots decide to become Certificated Flight Instructors (CFIs) and may even relocate to an area with more favorable weather to fly more and meet minimums faster. Many schools are looking for instructors and often hire students after graduation to come back and teach.

Others may begin flying for a Part 135 carrier. You might be operating a private charter or transporting cargo. There’s a good chance that you will fly in many different types of weather conditions in this role, which is great experience to have.

Since many other countries have lower total time requirements, sometimes pilots will fly overseas and build up the hours they need to work for an airline in the US.

To Sum It Up

No one size fits all path exists for a person who wants to become a commercial pilot. You get to decide which path is right for you based on your career goals.

You can find more detailed information on ATP/R-ATP requirements on the bottom of our Pilot page at www.airwis.com/pilots.

Find a list of FAA approved R-ATP eligible schools on the FAA’s website HERE.

Air Wisconsin Gives Back

Air Wisconsin has roots all over the country thanks to our employees. It’s part of our mission to give back to the communities where our team members live and work through various programs. During the holiday season, our company adopts a family or two every year through the Salvation Army at our headquarters, but it doesn’t stop there. Charitable giving occurs year round.

Gift Matching

We want to help support the causes that matter to our employees. Air Wisconsin will match monetary donations to 501(c) (3) charities. This allows us to positively impact many different causes, both at the national level and ones that are local to our team members.

Teams Giving Back

When people volunteer their time to better their community, everyone wins. Air Wisconsin gives groups of employees the opportunity to spend the work day volunteering instead of in the office, hangar or airplane. Employees who have participated say it’s a rewarding way to spend the day.

Charity Golf Outing

This annual summer event is held near our headquarters to support the local The Boys and Girls Brigade youth center. Employees system-wide are invited to attend if they are able.

Location Initiatives

Our bases often take it upon themselves to put together drives or events that give back to the local communities throughout the year. In Milwaukee, our team held a school supply drive and collected items over the summer for children in lower income areas. Our team in Chicago adopted a stretch of highway near one of our crew hotels, and groups volunteer for clean up duty when the weather is nice. Our management team in Washington Dulles and some wonderful crewmembers worked with United to make a flight extra special for a Make-A-Wish child who was on the way to having her wish come true.

Members of our crew in Milwaukee posing with donated school supplies.

Thank you to all of our employees for helping us make a difference! If you’re interested in learning more about career opportunities available at Air Wisconsin, go to www.airwis.com/careers.

A&P Means Opportunity, Part 3: Technical Auditors

If you missed Part 1: Maintenance Controllers read it HERE, or read Part 2: Maintenance Planning Coordinators HERE.

Safety is always the top priority in aviation. Air Wisconsin’s Tech Ops team follows regulations put in place by the FAA, DOT, OSHA and the EPA as well as company policies and procedures. Plus, we have an additional layer of oversite from the Quality Assurance Department to keep an eye on our operation and find ways to improve on processes.

As a Technical Auditor, you will become very familiar with all aspects of our maintenance operation since you’ll spend 75% of your time on the road visiting our base locations and vendors. The internal audits you preform will evaluate regulatory compliance and help determine the effectiveness of our policies and procedures. Using your past maintenance experience and excellent judgement, you can make recommendations for improvements to help our team work even safer and more efficiently.

In addition to developing and conducting audits for our base locations and maintenance offices, you will also audit vendors. Currently, Air Wisconsin uses a handful of outside facilities for heavy check maintenance and some on-call maintenance repairs. You will also inspect our fuel service providers to ensure they’re meeting specifications.

Here’s a photo from our operation in Chicago at O’Hare.

This career opportunity is great for someone with previous experience in a FAR Part 121 Air Carrier environment and a comprehensive understanding of the General Maintenance Manual system who also likes to travel. Like our Maintenance Planning Coordinator position, you don’t need an A&P certificate to be a Technical Auditor. But, this is an option to consider if you have an A&P and are looking to do something other than maintain aircraft.

It’s also worth mentioning that our Technical Auditors have flexibility when choosing a home base. You could be based at one of our maintenance facilities in Appleton, WI; Milwaukee, WI; Dayton; OH; or Columbia, SC or even in Chicago, IL where we use an on-call provider.

Learn more about the various positions we have on our Tech Ops team HERE.

A&P Means Opportunity, Part 2: Maintenance Planning Coordinators

With an A&P certificate, you could work on aircraft or even behind-the-scenes in one of many different roles. Most people don’t realize that there are career opportunities available beyond performing aircraft maintenance. Last week, we explored what Maintenance Controllers do (Read it HERE), and this week let’s check out the purview of a Maintenance Planning Coordinator.

Maintenance Planning Coordinators work on a living puzzle. Analytical skills come in handy when interpreting detailed aircraft maintenance reports to help forecast scheduled maintenance for that day and looking as far as 18 days out. The Coordinator needs to be aware of the manpower available at each Tech Ops facility as well as what tools and parts are available to help craft and coordinate the scheduled maintenance plan.

Of course, as new information becomes available, the plan might need to change. A Maintenance Planning Coordinator may decide to defer some maintenance, within the requirements of the approved maintenance program, to provide relief during Irregular Operations. Or, some scheduled maintenance might be deferred to maximize another opportunity when requested by a maintenance supervisor or station manager. Timely, accurate analysis is crucial in the Coordinator’s role as final authority for deferring tasks and coming up with realistic solutions to achieve performance goals.

Here’s an inside look at one of our GE engines.

During a typical week, a Maintenance Planning Coordinator will work four 10 hour days, and the Coordinators all take turns rotating weekends. Like Maintenance Controllers, Maintenance Planning Coordinators work in the Systems Operation Center located at our headquarters in Appleton, WI, alongside Aircraft Dispatchers and Crew Schedulers.

While an A&P certificate is not required for this position, it is desired and will make you stand out as a candidate. Explore this opportunity and all of our career opportunities HERE.

Read on to learn about Technical Auditors HERE.

A&P Means Opportunity, Part 1: Maintenance Controllers

You might be surprised to learn having an A&P certificate opens more doors than you think. Everyone pictures the mechanic working on the GE engine—which is an excellent and rewarding career path—but, did you know 30% of our Tech Ops team is made up of support roles? Many jobs are available beyond working on the aircraft.

Maintenance Controllers are the primary point of contact for all maintenance issues on our fleet. They work in the brain of our operation, the Systems Operation Center. If you’ve ever been on a flight waiting to takeoff when suddenly there is a maintenance issue, a Maintenance Controller is the one who determines the airworthiness of the maintenance issue, and if needed, sends a mechanic to fix the problem. They ensure airworthy aircraft are available for every flight and direct contingency maintenance during operations as needed.

While these detail oriented individuals never touch the aircraft, they are very familiar with how to fix aircraft, and most of them have past experience doing so. Our typical Maintenance Controller is a former A&P or Avionics Technician who was drawn to the position for the schedule (four days on, four days off with 11 hours shifts), interested in a “desk job,” and ready to do something a little different with their knowledge and skill set.

All of our Maintenance Controllers are based at our headquarters in Appleton, WI. Learn more HERE. Explore all of the openings on our Tech Ops team HERE.

Next, let’s explore what it means to be a Maintenance Planning Coordinator HERE.

What to Expect in Your Flight Attendant Interview

How exciting! You’ve been invited to interview for a Flight Attendant position with Air Wisconsin. Here’s what to expect and some tips on how to land your dream job.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a Flight Attendant? It’s probably how personable they are. In addition to playing an important role in the safety of our passengers, you will also interact with people from all different places, with all different personalities. It’s no accident that your interview begins sitting in a circle with all of the other candidates. 

Our September 2019 Flight Attendant Class visiting our maintenance hangar in Appleton, WI.

While this probably isn’t like other job interviews you’ve had, it’s an important part of our interview process. Our recruiters and members of our Inflight training team want to see how well you interact with others. Things will start off with an ice breaker question, and the group might participate in an exercise together.

During this process, the Air Wisconsin team will decide who moves on to one-on-one interviews. Being on-time, dressing appropriately, and positively interacting with other candidates are what they are hoping to see. 

The next part of the interview process will feel more familiar. We’ll review your resume with you and ask different types of questions to determine if we are a good fit for each other. If we believe we are, we’ll offer you the job on spot.

Just remember to be yourself and have fun in your interview. Good luck!

Explore all of our open positions at www.airwis.com/careers.

🌴 Honolulu Itinerary 🌴

Aloha! We’re stoked to be heading to Honolulu. Let’s get some grindz on Thursday, November 14 at Tropics Ale House! Dinner is on us for any CFIs or professional pilots who want to learn more about flying for us as United Express and then United through their Aviate program.

You can also catch us at one of these other events or get in touch to see if we can set something up. Email: Enrique.Camblor@airwis.com

Thursday, November 14

Friday, November 15

Saturday, November 16

Our Honolulu Pilot Dinner last fall at Tropics Ale House. Thanks to everyone who came!

We hope to see you soon. Mahalo!

A Destination for Veterans

Veterans have the attention to detail, high standards, and leadership skills that we look for in candidates. The current shortage of licensed and unlicensed professionals means unlimited opportunities in aviation, especially for pilots and mechanics on our Tech Ops team.

In the segment below featured on Military Makeover: Operation Career, you will meet two employees who seamlessly transitioned into their civilian careers at Air Wisconsin.

Explore our opportunities at www.airwis.com/careers.

Unicorn No More: Encouraging Women to Fly

Meeting what many in the aviation industry have dubbed “a unicorn,” or a female pilot, makes all the difference to a young girl or woman with aspirations of flight. It marks the moment their dream feels achievable. That is why Air Wisconsin encourages and offers its pilots the opportunity to represent the company at events to help inspire and reassure the next generation.

“It’s okay to dream of doing this,” said Air Wisconsin Captain Avreet Randhawa. “When you get in touch with other women who fly, they’re very supportive.” She added, “I go to all these air shows because I get to meet people, and I love that. It’s always amazing to share what you’ve gone through. We don’t see a lot of female pilots out there.”

Captain Avreet Randhawa with Tim Genc, Director of Pilot Recruitment, and Finn Hudson, Pilot Recruiter.

Without the encouragement of her parents, Avreet admits she probably never would have become a pilot. “I was 10 when I started saying I wanted to fly.” Avreet ended up getting a bachelor’s degree in an IT-related field. In her last year at school, her father reminded her of that faded aspiration and motivated her to earn a pilot rating after graduation. It was a wildly different path than anyone in her family had taken. Still, two months after graduation, Avreet was at Phoenix East Aviation flight school halfway around the world, finally learning to fly.

Air Wisconsin First Officer Trista Higgins credits her mom with affirming her desire to take to the skies. “As a kid, I was always fascinated with airplanes and airline travel, but of course, never saw or knew a female pilot. When I was about eight years old, I asked my mom if girls could be pilots too. Without hesitation, she said, ‘Yes!’ From that point on, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to be.”

As one of the few airlines run by a female CEO, motivating women to explore careers in aviation is a pursuit especially close to Air Wisconsin’s heart. Supporting and sponsoring events like Girls in Aviation Day and the Women in Aviation annual conference are ways the company works toward that goal.

Captain Avreet Randhawa in an Air Wisconsin CRJ-200.

CEO Christine Deister said, “By our words and actions, let’s encourage and mentor our sisters, daughters and other young women by showing them that great aviation careers are accessible and available to them in the same way that we have always taken for granted and assumed that our brothers, sons and young men will pursue those opportunities.”

We all need encouragement from time to time. If you’re interested in a career as a pilot but unsure where to start, reach out to a local flight school and ask about discovery flights. You’ll takeoff in a small plane flown by a Certified Flight Instructor and know within minutes whether or not flying is for you. Next, “make connections and perhaps even find a mentor,” suggests First Officer Trista Higgins. “Do some research and figure out what kind of pilot you want to be. Find the best path for you, then go for it!”

First Officer Trista Higgins looking up at the tail of a CRJ-200.

Anyone interested in an aviation career is always welcome to seek advice from Air Wisconsin. Come see us at any event for resume reviews, interview tips, or just to say hello. You’ll likely meet one of our pilots who has been on the same journey you are on now. They would love to help.

You can also reach out to our recruiting team any time at pilotrecruiting@airwis.com, and explore all of our opportunities at www.airwis.com/careers.