It is Not Too Late to Live Your Dream of Being an Airline Pilot

ATP Graduates are flying all around the world for both domestic and international carriers. These ATP trained pilots form one of the largest alumni groups in aviation and we stay in touch with each other on an ongoing basis. Gordon McKay is one such graduate, and Gordon has a great story to tell. We would like to share it with you.

Greetings! My name is Gordon McKay. I am a new First Officer with Mesa Air Group, flying the CRJ-700 aircraft out of Washington Dulles airport. More importantly for this article is the fact I am 58 years old and have been out of regular flying for a period of time prior to my training with Mesa. ATP was a key resource of information, advice and preparation that made my job with a Part 121 air carrier possible.

Like many other aviators I obtained my private pilot license at a young age. I flew regularly in those days, eventually earning the various ratings to become a Certificated Flight Instructor. I was a part time CFI for several years, eventually logged over 1,600 hours and obtained my Airline Transport Pilot certificate.

Early in 2014 I read several newspaper articles covering the looming regional airline pilot shortage, the requirement that all newly hired First Officers required an ATP certificate and most importantly, the change in Part 121 pilot retirement age from 60 to 65 years of age. I had seven years remaining. Was it possible that I could still fly for a regional airline?

I needed to quickly develop a personalized study and training program to regain flight currency and proficiency. I live in the Chicago area and an internet search zeroed in on ATP Flight Schools. Paul Templeton, ATP’s Regional Jet Program Director, seemed to be a likely information resource. I arranged a call with Paul, introduced myself and asked if my plan to seek an airline flying job was feasible.

Paul provided thoughtful, unbiased and accurate information. He said that airline employment was indeed possible but that the ball was in my court to make it happen. In short, he offered no false promises. I liked that.

My first step was to ensure I could obtain an FAA Class I medical. Happily that came through without any problem.

The next task was mapping out a tailored course of flight training. This is where the nation-wide reach of ATP Flight Schools came into play. ATP had an office at DuPage Airport, a 30 minute drive from my house. I arranged a series of dual instrument proficiency flights, simulator rides and ten hours of multi-engine time.

Next was the need to sharpen my instrument skills in an advanced cockpit aircraft. I scheduled through ATP’s Daytona location 27 dual hours in their Garmin 1000 equipped Cessna 172 aircraft. This was a great opportunity for concentrated instrument flight instruction in a busy ATC environment, under the hood and with a full glass cockpit.

During this period I spent a great deal of time with self-study of various pilot training books regarding the ATP written exam, turbine flight operations, FAA regulations and general instrument flight knowledge.

The final and without question most important piece of my preparation was ATP’s seven day Regional Jet Training program. I took the RJ course at their Jacksonville facility. The course included focused instruction by current regional airline First Officers in a CRJ-200 Flight Training Device. The combination of learning the basics of the CRJ-200 combined with airline flows and crew procedures in a modern glass cockpit jet aircraft was the perfect culmination of my plan to compete for airline pilot employment.

During the Jacksonville training Paul and I had a thoughtful conversation regarding my airline flying goals, desired quality of life and other considerations. Paul has extensive knowledge and interaction with all of the main regional airlines. For a variety of reasons, Mesa seemed like a great fit for me.

One thing led to another and I was offered a job as a CRJ First Officer trainee with Mesa in November 2014. Mesa was accommodating with my training start date and I began Indoctrination at their Phoenix location on January 21, 2015.

Mesa’s pilot training department is rock solid. The instructors are professional, knowledgeable and engaged with the students. While the course work is challenging, if you are prepared and apply yourself Mesa offers the opportunity to succeed. It is all up to you. I completed the ground, simulator and Initial Operation Experience training in short order and had my first regular line flight in late April out of my base at Washington Dulles airport.

In conclusion, it has been a busy past eleven months to arrive at this point. I do not think this journey would have been possible without the help, training and guidance of ATP Flight Schools. ATP’s flexibility, industry knowledge and wide range of flight and ground training programs are invaluable assets to anyone considering an airline career. I offer my highest recommendation towards ATP Flight Schools to assist with your professional pilot training program.

Gordon McKay