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 email@example.com
For more information on Women In Aviation- SE Wisconsin Chapter and their outreach efforts please email firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
Pilots have many different career options. You can operate cargo flights, become a full-time instructor, choose a military career, fly helicopters or private jets, become a commercial pilot, etc. Your ultimate career goals will help you decide which flight school fits your needs, and it begins with choosing the type of program you want.
1.) Part 61 vs. Part 141 Flight Training
When choosing a flight school, two different types of programs are available. You can build hours in a Part 61 or Part 141 program. Both have their advantages and respective minimum standards for training set by Federal Aviation Regulations.
Part 61 programs are more informal, and your local flight school likely falls into this category. This path is suited to part-time students. You have more control over your flight instructor; although, choices may be limited at smaller schools. You may also need more flight hours to accomplish your career goal.
If you’re looking to earn a degree in a structured environment, check out Part 141 programs. The FAA regularly audits schools in this group. Courses are also FAA-approved, and the school must meet a minimum threshold for pass rates. Larger schools like Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University or Western Michigan University are more likely to fall into this category; however, they may also offer a Part 61 program.
Captain Avreet Randhawa, a former instructor, shared her advice and said, “Each student has different training preferences, and these programs can help [you] choose the pace [you] want to work at. Also, it is good to check the fleet type. It can make a difference when [you] are transitioning to jets.”
Depending on your career goals, you may opt for one path over another. We covered this topic in our blog “Choosing Your Path to Becoming a Commercial Pilot.” It’s worth a read if you need more insight. Rest assured, you can become a commercial pilot regardless of which program you choose. Your requirements will just be different.
Unfortunately, becoming a pilot isn’t cheap. According to the pilots we surveyed on Twitter, the main factor to consider when choosing a flight school was a tie between cost and location.
Some student pilots choose schools in warmer locations to fly more throughout the year and complete their FAA required hours faster. If you’re a part-time student, building hours at the local flight school is exceptionally convenient. Perhaps you want a degree and choose a school near family or friends. Once you talk to other pilots about their journeys, you’ll hear many different stories. As a pilot, you’re essentially reading a choose your adventure book. Build the path that’s right for you.
While researching flight schools, you’ll realize that some schools and universities have affiliations with different regional or mainline carriers. Choosing a school with a pathway that lands you at the airline of your dreams is appealing. Some people find it comforting to have a blueprint for their pilot journey. That being said, note that some pathways require a contract while others do not.
Air Wisconsin’s Airman Trainee program was an example of the latter. We haven’t made any announcements yet, but we plan to bring an enhanced version of this program back, allowing student pilots a quicker path to flying for us.
If you’d love to fly for United one day, check out the Aviate program. United teams with various schools and regional airline partners, like Air Wisconsin Airlines, offering the fastest route to the United flight deck. You aren’t required to sign a contract if you enroll in the Aviate program and can apply to other airlines. Other mainline carriers have pathways too.
5.) Quality of the Instructors
Learning to fly in various types of conditions is fun and stressful. Quality instruction is critical. Once you learn bad habits, it’s difficult to unlearn them. Finding an instructor or instructors you connect with makes a difference and leads to a more pleasant experience.
If you can attend an open house or meet the CFIs (Certified Flight Instructors), go. Ask about training styles and see how they fit with your learning style. You can also learn a lot by talking to former students.
6.) Reputation and the Experiences of Others
Our Assistant Chief Pilot Doug McEnerney highly suggests talking to current students or alumni at any school you’re interested in attending. “When choosing a flight school, try to reach out to alumni or current students and hear what they have to say about their experience with the program. If you find that they generally have positive things to say and you like talking with people who went/go there, it’s probably a good fit!”
It’s easier than you think to get this feedback. Facebook has numerous groups where pilots share advice. Join one and pose the question. You can check out pilot mentorship programs like Professional Pilots of Tomorrow or reach out to active pilots on social media. Ask around; you may have a fellow aviation fan who knows someone who went to the school you’re considering. The flight school itself is also a resource. Ask for names of current or past students that you can talk to about their experience.
Build Your Path
As you talk to other pilots, you’ll hear lots of advice. What matters to one person may not be the most important factor to consider in your eyes. If you do the research and listen to your gut, you’ll make the right decision.
If anything is true in aviation, it’s that you’ll be continuously learning acronyms throughout your career. If you’re just starting in the industry, be forewarned, and don’t be overwhelmed. Natural curiosity will guide you; ask when you hear one you don’t know.
We polled our community of fans on Instagram to identify what they consider the essential acronyms in aviation, and many pilots responded. You’ll undoubtedly notice some important ones missing because there are so many, but consider this a place to start.
*Some acronyms have multiple popular interpretations for some letters, but the intent is the same. Depending on your instructors or where you did your research, you may notice some differences on this list.
Aviation is one of the most regulated industries in the world, so it’s no surprise you’ll learn acronyms that revolve around safety, starting with you. Before boarding any aircraft to fly, do a self-assessment and make sure you’re in the right headspace. If you are not 100% ready to fly, don’t. These acronyms are most commonly associated with pilots, but IMSAFE is helpful for any safety-sensitive position.
IMSAFE I – Illness M – Medication S – Stress A – Alcohol F – Fatigue E – Emotions/Eating
PAVE P – Pilot A – Aircraft V – enVironment E – External Pressures
Many aviation acronyms are checklists. These are just a few that you’ll repeat all the time.
ARROW – Make sure you have all required documents. Sometimes instructors teach AROW, without Radio Station License. A – Airworthiness Certificate R – Radio Station License R – Registration Certificate O – Operation Limitations W – Weight and Balance
AVIATES – Always verify the airworthiness of an aircraft, and make sure all required maintenance is completed and up-to-date. A – Annual Check V – VORs 1 – 100 Hour Check A – Altimeter/Pitot Static T – Transponder E – Emergency Location Transmitter S – Static Inspection
NWKRAFT – Prepare for each flight by having all of the relevant information. N – NOTAMs (A NOTAM is a notice with essential information about flight operations.) W – Weather K – Known Air Traffic Control (ATC) Delays R – Runway Lengths A – Alternate Airport F – Fuel T – Takeoff and Landing Distances
ATOMATOFLAMES – This checklist covers the equipment required for Visual Flight Rules (VFR) during the day. A – Altimeter T – Tachometer O – Oil Pressure Gauge M – Magnetic Compass A – Airspeed Indicator T – Temperature Gauge O – Oil Temperature Gauge E – Emergency Location Transmitter F – Fuel Gauge L – Landing Gear Extension Lights A – Anti-Collision Lights M – Manifold Pressure Gauge E – ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter) S – Seatbelts
FLAPS – Verify your equipment required for Visual Flight Rules (VFR) during the night. F – Fuses L – Landing Light A – Anti-Collision Lights P – Position lights S – Source of power
GRABCARD – You’ll remember the minimum equipment required under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) using this acronym. G – Generator or Alternator R – Radio/Navigation Appropriate For Flight A – Attitude Indicator B – Ball (Inclinometer) C – Clock A – Altimeter R – Rate of Turn Indicator D – Directional Gyro
Communication is essential when on the ground and especially when in the air. Air Wisconsin makes it a point to teach pilots how to communicate with each other in the cockpit, disagree and have a productive conversation, and properly communicate with the Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower during training. Pilots must also be tuned in and engaged. You’ll hear these acronyms often.
A – Aviate
N – Navigate
C – Communicate
THE 5 Ts – The pilot who suggested this acronym admitted he never thought much of it as a student, but as a CFII, he can’t remind students enough.
T – Time
T – Twist
T – Throttle
T – Talk
The 3 Ps
P – Perceive
P – Process
P – Perform
D – Detect
E – Estimate
C – Choose
I – Identify
D – Do
E – Evaluate
We wanted to include one more essential acronym—SAFETY. Always brief your passengers, if any are aboard. If you choose to become a commercial pilot, the Inflight announcement will cover most of the items listed below. However, if your pilot journey includes flying a helicopter, private charters, teaching, operating discovery flights, taking friends and family up for a ride, etc., it’ll be your responsibility.
S – Seat Belts
A – Air Ventilation
F – Fire Extinguisher
E – Emergency Procedure
T – Traffic
Y – “Your Questions”
What do you think is the most crucial acronym in aviation? If it’s not on our list, comment below to add it and help out future aviators reading this blog. As a bonus, we’ve compiled resources below worth checking out if you want to learn more acronyms or common industry abbreviations.
This month, we’re highlighting women throughout our company on our social media channels and asking them to share advice or insight. The hope is that their words will inspire others, guide the next generation, and offer encouragement to anyone who needs it.
In this two-part series, you’ll hear from women whose careers are more commonly top-of-mind when you think of aviation and hear from women whose careers are not. We’ll highlight that women tend to be in the minority when it comes to many aviation careers such as pilot, mechanic, or aircraft dispatcher. Companies like Air Wisconsin and the organizations mentioned in this blog are trying to change that by educating girls and women on the types of opportunities available.
This series will also help amplify the voices of the women already in those roles at Air Wisconsin Airlines, providing an example and inspiration for anyone who chooses aviation as their career path. Please join us in celebrating and acknowledging the contributions made by these outstanding women.
As an A&P Mechanic, Kassidy performs maintenance and repairs various parts of the aircraft including working on the engine. This is a very technical job that requires problem-solving skills, the ability to troubleshoot complex problems, and the right certifications. Kassidy loves her job and plays a hands-on role in keeping our operation safe and on-time. She is one of the few female aircraft mechanics in the United States.
In December 2019, only 2.5% of aircraft mechanics in the US were women, according to the FAA. Out of all of the possible careers in aviation, this one has the smallest percentage of women. Many companies like Air Wisconsin are emphasizing the need for more diversity in the field and raising awareness.
Kassidy hopes more women pursue this rewarding career and reminds us all to find our support system. No one accomplishes anything alone.
“Always gaining knowledge and moving forward is what I love about my career. I have earned my place, but I was not walking alone. The individuals that stood by me and lent a helping hand when I needed it will always have my utmost appreciation and gratitude. Tomorrow is why I love working in this industry. Each day is brand new.”
– Kassidy Wykoff
Sonji discovered her passion for aviation by chance. When she graduated from high school, she wanted to become a Registered Nurse. After taking some business classes, Sonji started to lean toward Human Resources Management. But it wasn’t until she was hired as a Ramp Fleet Service Clerk with a mainline carrier that she realized how much she loved the fast-paced aviation industry.
Although she had jobs in other industries after, Sonji still loved aviation and eventually joined our team. Now, Sonji supports our largest crew base and positively impacts the lives of countless people every day. By supporting our crew members, they are better able to take care of our passengers.
Sonji reminds us that the people you work with every day make a world of difference. Find your work family.
“I am very proud of my strong work ethic and my ability to be a team player for the Inflight/Flight team. I am valued. Knowing that my work family appreciates what I do in the office daily motivates me… Follow your dreams, and never compromise your integrity. Every step that you take in life is not easy, but always remain authentic. Figure out your purpose, and strive to reach it. Nothing happens overnight, so be patient with the process. Don’t let your attitude determine your altitude. Be accountable for your actions. Don`t judge others, and encourage others who need direction in this journey called life.”
— Sonji Nicholas
Interested in aviation? Take First Officer Trista’s advice and get involved with an aviation-based organization to explore the many different paths available. She suggests Women in Aviation International, which is the largest and most well-known. Other female-led aviation organizations include but are not limited to Sisters of the Skies and the Ninety-Nines.
If you want to fly as a career, you also have numerous options. During her career, Trista was a flight instructor, flew scenic tours, was part of a fire patrol team, flew corporate flights, and currently flies commercial flights for us under the United Express banner. In December 2019, 7.9% of pilots in the United States were women, according to the FAA. That number is slowly growing as more companies like Air Wisconsin and our partner United Airlines commit to encouraging girls and women to explore aviation and other opportunities in STEM.
Your journey is unique. Find the path that works for you and go for it! Trista is proof that childhood dreams come true if you’re willing to work hard and believe in yourself.
“I would highly recommend getting involved in one of the female aviation organizations like Women in Aviation International. These organizations provide several benefits and opportunities to members such as scholarships, networking, and mentoring… I love so many aspects of working in aviation… Being an airline pilot is all I’ve ever wanted to be since I was 8 years old. Every time an airplane would fly overhead, I would look up in amazement. Now whenever I step into the flight deck, I’m still just as amazed that this is my career. Being responsible for 50 passengers in a multi-million dollar aircraft is a huge privilege.”
— First Officer Trista Higgins
Behind-the-scenes members of our Maintenance team like Cori make up about 30% of our Maintenance department at Air Wisconsin. As the Program Manager of Aircraft Components, Cori’s job impacts our entire operation. She manages all of the repairable components from our aircraft that are sent to third-party vendors for repair. Additionally, Cori ensures these vendors meet or exceed the standards set by our Maintenance Program. She also works closely with other internal departments to verify inventory levels are sufficient to support the operation.
Like many people, it took Cori some time to discover what she really wanted to do as a career. Inspired by her mother, she kept looking until she found one that fit. Cori teaches us not to settle—find something you’re passionate about.
“I would have never guessed that I’d end up in the aviation industry. I grew up watching my mom’s unwavering passion and dedication to her career and knew I wouldn’t be satisfied until I found an industry I was as passionate about. I changed my career path countless times during college until I found the right fit in aviation, and I haven’t looked back. I strive to emulate her passion and dedication and pass this along to my kids. Whether my kids are 5, 17, or 30, I want them to always look for that ‘perfect fit’ in whatever they do in life.”
– Cori Fuller
Lisa was born to soar in the sky. Like many people who become Flight Attendants, she was never interested in the 9-5 lifestyle. Traveling and meeting new people is exciting and a much better way to spend the day. You also have the chance to build strong, life-long friendships with fellow crew members.
Lisa also enjoys taking care of others, which is why being a Flight Attendant is so rewarding. Not only do you help transport people to important events and fun vacations, but you’re primarily responsible for their safety. Lisa reminds us that there’s a whole world to explore and plenty of opportunities for anyone who doesn’t want to sit at a desk all day.
“I love being a Flight Attendant as I love to travel and love customer service. You are always meeting different people from around the world. Come join the friendly skies with me, and I promise you never want to go back to any other job.”
– Lisa Hopkins
Click HERE to read part two. You’ll learn more about the different career paths available within aviation and meet more of the women who help make Air Wisconsin a leader in the regional airline industry.
We’ve all been searching for fun things to do during the pandemic, especially this winter. If you haven’t checked out virtual tours, it’s time. You can virtually visit The Louvre, The Great Wall, zoos, aquariums, rain forests, and countless places. Forbes put together their list of the 15 best virtual tours HERE. Of course, if your heart is set on aviation and aerospace, look no further.
There are many free aviation virtual tours out there and even some paid ones. Here are some of the free options options we enjoyed.
You can take a virtual tour of the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Hover your mouse over the screen, and white arrows will appear on the ground telling you where you can go. You’ll see many different types of aircraft and spacecraft in the hangar.
You can also tour the National Mall Building, but unfortunately, this experience doesn’t include detailed information on the exhibits, and the displays are difficult to read.
It’s also worth noting that the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum frequently hosts events on Facebook and goes live to show off artifacts or discuss various topics.
As you would expect, EAA has many, many virtual tours featuring historic aircraft including a replica of the Wright Brothers 1911 Flyer Model B. You can enjoy the scenic trip through the Eagle Hangar or jump to popular aircraft. Scroll down the landing page to see your options.
Take a self-guided 360-degree tour of the museum. Blue arrows let you know which directions you can go. You’ll also see suggested areas of the museum across the bottom of the screen, allowing you to jump to a certain section. You can also zoom in and get a better look at displays or read the text. We wish all virtual museum experiences had this capability!
Spending more time at home can be challenging during the pandemic, especially if you have younger children. We wanted to help! If you’re looking for something fun to do with the kids (or for yourself), check out our coloring pages.
We have four different designs below and a one page .pdf that combines all of the art to conserve paper. These were designed to fill an entire 8.5” x 11” page. You can select “fit to page” or “fill page” when printing for optimum results.
Be sure to share the masterpieces on social media and tag us @AirWisconsin or #AirWisconsin.
Our team at Air Wisconsin is as invested in your pilot career as you are. We want to set you up for success as a Part 121 pilot. Our thorough training program gives you the foundational tools you will use throughout your professional career. Instructors take you step by step through the training process as they tailor their teaching method to you as an individual. Our team will go out of their way to help you, but you also have to do the work and meet us half way. Here are some tips from our lead instructors on things you can do to help yourself be successful in training.
Use Your Apps
Every new pilot is given an iPad with apps to help you practice important tasks. Many of our applications are developed in-house at Air Wisconsin. The “Button Trainer” is a digital replica of our aircraft cockpit that is available to pilots. This app allows you to explore the cockpit and learn the functionality of all the buttons. This a great tool to use to prepare for your check ride!
The ACARS (Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System) Simulator lets you familiarize yourself while navigating through the system, sending and receiving messages, and pushing buttons that respond to your touch and request.
You also have access to all of Air Wisconsin’s applicable navigation and approach tools on your iPad.
The importance of communication and team work cannot be overstated. Crew Resource Management (CRM) is a technique where authority can be respectfully questioned when a First Officer disagrees with a Captain. Practice this technique in small group study sessions in person or even on the phone.
Prepare for the Day
Taking some time to look over the lesson before you walk into the classroom puts you at an advantage. You’ll be ready to ask questions to help you better understand the material.
If you’re unclear about something, ask a question. If you’re still not sure, ask a follow up. The lead instructors agree, you cannot ask too many questions.
Create a Study Aid
Flashcards can be a very useful tool to help you during initial training and even during continuing qualification events. You can practice by yourself or with a classmate.
Our training footprint is designed with little lag time in between classes to keep information fresh in your mind and your skills sharp. Take time to study every day, especially if you have time off at home.
We have also seen time and time again that classes who study together have a higher success rate overall. Take advantage of the conference room your hotel gives to Air Wisconsin pilots in training. Whether your study group is made up of a few people or your entire class, this space is available to you.
As a new hire pilot, you can seize the opportunity to jumpseat and see Air Wisconsin pilots in action. Ask your instructor for more information.
Listen to Live ATC
Anyone can listen to live Air Traffic Control (ATC) communications online at www.liveatc.net. This website is run by volunteers, so you may not be able to find a feed for every airport, but you likely will for hubs. You can learn a lot by listening.
We want every pilot to thrive at Air Wisconsin. We think of your journey through training as a ladder. Our instructors are right there with you for each step.
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.
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.