Aloha, first I have to say I’m writing this bio from my VERY nice room in the Hyatt Regency Osaka where I’m on layover and ate WAYYY too much at the inclusive sumptuous breakfast buffet (no it doesn’t suck). Not trying to be obnoxious, just sharing and yes I’m a happy guy.
Like many of you I always dreamed of aviation. Once when I was maybe 12 playing little league I got whacked in the face by a fly ball because I was looking at an airplane overhead. Growing up in the Bronx there was always plenty of airplane traffic overhead (between JFK, LGA and EWR). Unfortunately there was no general aviation in the area (and even if there was we were pretty lean financially so that wasn’t going to happen anyway). When I was in my 20’s I was making good money and decided to get my Private. It took forever due to my schedule etc but I eventually earned it. Unfortunately I always seemed to be in the position where I either had the money but not the time, or I had the time and not the money, so I never really did anything with my license. Eventually I found my self doing pretty well in the restaurant business (I owned a pizzeria in Ocean City MD). Not feeling particularly satisfied on many levels with my life (I was 39, I don’t like to call it a midlife crisis but perhaps it was?) I decided I needed to do something that would a) make me happy and b) stimulate my brain. It narrowed down to 2 choices music or flying. Since I look stupid with long hair and spandex and frankly wasn’t that talented in the first place I opted for the latter. That said I wasn’t even sure what that meant? I just knew I wanted to fly.
I had always heard or thought that to be an airline pilot you had to have been in the military or maybe start very young and wealthy. I was neither so I figured maybe I could instruct, build some time and possibly get a charter or cargo gig? Training was obviously next. It had taken me FOREVER (2 yrs) to get my Private so I decided I would take some time off and train full time (no the wife was not happy and yes EVERYONE thought I was crazy). After A TON of research I decided ATP was my best option (btw, this is not an ATP commercial it’s simply the facts and the facts are there was (is) no better more efficient route to a career in aviation and I credit them with much of my success). During my training at ATP everyone was looking at working for the airlines. When guys asked me which airline I was hoping for I responded none, I was too old, no military bla bla bla. Everyone told me I was wrong (I thought they were blowing smoke?). After I finished training ATP gave me an instructor position in TTN (Trenton) and said after I built some time to forward them my resume and they’d get me an interview (yea right). I did as a fluke and a week later I got a call to interview with ExpressJet (Continental Express at the time). I interviewed and they were dumb enough to offer me a First Officer position flying out of EWR. To say this was a dream come true is an understatement. I still get misty when I think about it. I flew for Xjt for almost 10 yrs as a Capt and instructor.
My second dream had always been to live by the water someplace beautiful (no offense and yes NYC is surrounded by water but not what I really had in mind). A friend was flying for Hawaiian Airlines and was a very happy pilot (which is rare, we pilots love to complain). I figured what the hey, let’s see how far I can push my luck, and they too were foolish enough to hire my sorry butt. Originally I was assigned to the 717 flying interisland (the GREATEST JOB in AVIATION. Home every night, 30 min flts and perfect weather every day). Not being one to leave well enough alone, combined with this pang to fly a BIG airplane to some exotic places I transitioned to the ScareBus A330 and now fly EVERYWHERE!
It wasn’t easy and it required a lot of really hard work and sacrifice to get where I am today. I’m often asked was it worth it? I’m a poor kid from the Bronx and as I told you at the beginning of this bio I’m here in Osaka at the Hyatt. I flew a $230mil airplane sitting next to a good friend with the best view of ANY job ANYWHERE. What do you think?
Bio Update: I’m still a poor kid from the Bronx but I’m now an 717 Capt writing this update from my home a half a block from Kailua Beach