Friday, January 13, 2006

The Airline Chronicles: Prologue

Although it's hard for me to believe it, I've been working in the airline industry for over ten years now. This is the start of a retrospective on the different airlines I've worked at over the last decade.

I had kind of bounced around a couple of different colleges, not being sure what I wanted to major in. I started off in engineering but I really wasn't enjoying it, and this was reflected in my grades. I ended up joining the Air Force for four years, and I had pretty good experiences there, although I wasn't wild about my career field (which was working on F-15 avionics.) I looked into cross training into a different career field, air traffic control, when my time was almost up. Due to them screwing up some paperwork, though, I was told that I'd have to re-enlist first and THEN apply for cross training. I decided not to re-enlist at that point.

Since I had never gotten my 4-year degree, I spent the first year as a civilian finishing that up. I moved back to my hometown, Albuquerque, and lived with my parents while I was finishing my degree. I made ends meet through the GI Bill, which paid my tuition, and a work-study job at the Veterans Administration. I was getting a type of general aviation degree through a branch campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. While I liked aviation, I wasn't sure what kind of job I could get with the degree after I was finished. I had a minor in Aviation Safety, and there are safety jobs at most airlines, but the departments are generally rather small and positions there usually filled internally.

While I was copying an article out of an aviation magazine for one of my classes at a public library, I inadvertently copied an advertisement for Sheffield School of Aeronautics. I didn't really read it at the time, but I did look at it after I had written the paper the article was copied for. Hmmm, I thought, that sounds like an interesting career field. When I was close to graduating from Embry-Riddle, I explained what I wanted to do to my father, and he was rather supportive. I couldn't afford the tuition for Sheffield on my own (although the GI Bill did help a bit) and he paid it for me. I did pay for all my own living expenses and the trip there and back.
I ended up graduating from Sheffield on my 26th birthday, in 1994. I have a picture somewhere of me from when I was at Sheffield, but I can't seem to find it to scan and post. I will add it later, if it shows up.

It took me a few months to get my first airline job. Since I had no prior airline experience, lots of people weren't even interested in giving me an interview. However, through Sheffield's job notification program for its graduates, I applied for and got an interview with Business Express Airlines which was located at the time in Portsmouth, NH, on the grounds of the old Pease Air Force Base, now known as Pease International Tradeport. Business Express was a regional airline for Delta and Northwest at the time. Therefore, they were only able to get me a ticket on them to fly up for the interview in their own route network, which didn't extend west of Detroit. My mother helped me out this time by letting me use some of her frequent flier points to get a round trip ticket on American to Boston.

I did fly on Business Express on the very short flight from Boston to Portsmouth and interviewed with them the next morning. I wasn't sure how well I did on the interview, but they were hiring three people, and I ended up getting one of the job offers. Soon after that, off I drove from my parents' house in my old pickup, packed full of my belongings, to my first professional civilian job.

More details of the trip up there and my experiences in New England to come in the next episode: The Airline Chronicles, Chapter I.

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