[Originally published in Aerocrew News – February 2020 Issue]
A Great Time to Fly
If you’re a pilot, THIS is your time. With a national shortage of skilled aviators, it’s a pilot’s market. You’ve got choices and you’ve got the time to decide what you really want from an airline.
A Part of the Family, Not Just a Number
- First Officer Vlad Kouzniaev’s mom loves seeing him on the company Instagram, and comments every time.
- Captain Courtney Schoch runs marathons for literacy all over the world.
- Captain Kevin Houser used to play in the NFL.
- Check Airman Don Martel became a pilot after his wife got him a flying lesson as an anniversary gift.
- First Officer Pablo Frias-Almonte’s wife is a professional photographer who has him a thing or two about capturing compelling aviation photos.
They all fly for CommutAir, a United Express partner.
CommutAir knows these stories —and countless others — because the company is still small enough to know the employees as individuals, not numbers. From day one, employees are part of the CommutAir Family. It’s a culture CommutAir has fought hard to maintain for the last thirty years —and they’ve been successful at it, even during exponential growth.
A Personal Touch
Sign-on bonuses, base locations, reserve times, and mainline partners are all things that pilots must consider, and every regional has something to offer.
“It is difficult to compare CommutAir to other carriers,” said Bob Scheu, who joined the CommutAir family as a direct-entry captain. “Some have a large infrastructure system and mature jet program, but reserve times and upgrades are measured in years. Another has a fantastic route map and great overnights, but the junior assignments and loss of pilots is crippling.” After weighing his options, he knows CommutAir was the right choice for his career.
Cassie Outcult, a recruiter for CommutAir, recognizes that every pilot is different. “Selecting an airline is such a personal decision, and it really depends on the pilot’s career goals and the unique needs of his or her family.”
The recruiters want every candidate to be fully informed about the opportunities the company has to offer. Monthly Virtual Socials provide candidates with the chance to learn more about the CommutAir Family in a low-pressure setting. The call-in Q&A features a CommutAir Captain, as well as the Vice President of Flight Ops and the company’s COO. Callers can ask questions about what matters most to them and remain anonymous if they choose.
“It’s the first opportunity for these pilots to engage with our senior leadership,” Outcult explained. “And if they join C5, it’s the first opportunity of many. Our leadership team does an outstanding job of showing the pilots that we’re all in this together.”
It All Starts Day 1
CommutAir founder and current Chairman of the Board John Sullivan — along with the CEO, COO, and other members of senior leadership —meet with every new pilot class. CommutAir proudly celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2019, and the company wants new pilots to know they will be an integral part of the next generation. Following a historical presentation, senior leadership hosts a reception mixer, allowing you to get to know them in a casual setting, outside the formality of the office. Relationship building is important, and events like these ensure you know that your comments and ideas are always welcomed by CommutAir’s leadership team.
It doesn’t end with the welcome mixer. Members of the leadership team make regular trips to the bases to spend time in the crew rooms and make sure you have everything you need for continued success. An “open door” policy ensures everyone is heard.
“Not only do we have a great sense of comaraderie on the line, but there’s constant communication from management,” said Lead Technical Pilot Andrew Strojny. “Everyone is really approachable, even up to the President of the company. You really won’t find that anywhere else.”
The Family Atmosphere
The family-feeling is pervasive throughout the company but even more so on the line.
“There are lots of high-fives between crews as we swap aircraft and seeing a smiling familiar face is always nice,” Scheu said.
First Officer D’Troy Pastor came to CommutAir upon a recommendation from a mentor and friend. “My instructor here was actually the one who taught me how to fly five years ago. When he came to CommutAir, I wanted to follow him.”
He’s also made new friends at the airline, and insisted that a good crew can make a trip. “Look, flying is flying. But when you work well together, when you know they are professional and safe — you can really have fun.”
“All of the captains I flew with in my first year pulled and pushed me to be better, every day, and every flight leg,” said Captain Curtis Horton II, who has been with CommutAir more than six years. “They set excellent examples and also gave meaningful feedback. It was just the experience I needed! I try to foster the same encouraging environment in the flight deck.”
“CommutAir has given me tremendous opportunities that I don’t think would have been available at other regional airlines,” said Strojny, who was hired at 18 and flying the Beech 1900D shortly after.
Once he upgraded to the left seat, he had the opportunity to become a simulator instructor and took on other roles in training. He now fills the role of Lead Technical Pilot, a position he’s well suited for due to the Electrical Engineering degree he earned as a First Officer.
John Darke, CommutAir’s Managing Director of Safety, once flew the line as a pilot in the Dash 8. After several years, he moved to the training department, and then to the safety department, eventually leading it.
“I think it’s a hallmark of the company, promoting within,” he said. “CommutAir values its people, encourages you to explore, allows you to excel and try to improve yourself to advance the company.”
Pilots who want to broaden their horizons outside of the flight deck have the opportunity to help hire the next generation of pilots by conducting interviews with the recruiting team and also actively participate in the different phases of training.
“As our pilot group grows, so does our need for more Line Check Airman,” David Fitzgerald, VP of Flight Ops said. “If a pilot shows interest, we do what we can to make it happen.”
A Clear Path To United
For some pilots, a regional airline is where they choose to stay, explained CommutAir Captain and Check Airman Don Martel. He’s been a CommutAir employee for nearly 20 years. “Be it the convenience of the commute, personal preference, or accommodation of an outside interest, there is a life balance wherein swimming in a smaller pond works.”
Captain Courtney Schoch has spent more than 12 years at CommutAir. The seniority she’s accrued allows her the freedom to pursue her passion for running and her schedule accommodates her public speaking engagements.
For many, however, building flight hours at a regional is a stepping-stone to mainline. CommutAir has something to offer those pilots, as well.
Through the new Aviate program with United Airlines, CommutAir pilots have a clear career progression mapped out from the day they are accepted into the program.
“We were the first carrier to implement United’s original Career Path Program,” said Petra Kliman, CommutAir Recruiting Manager. “And now we’re thrilled to be one of only four regionals to be selected as an Aviate program partner.”
The Aviate program operates on a first-on / first-off list. The sooner a pilot is accepted into the program and completes their hours at CommutAir, the sooner they’ll get the call to United. By virtue of its unprecedented growth, this means CommutAir offers a direct and fast path to the mainline.
“Our family-friendly culture focuses on safety, reliability, and caring. A pilot’s time with us really prepares them for the next step in their careers,” Kliman said.
Join the CommutAir Family
“It’s a great time to join a company when it’s small and growing, because then you are part of all the exciting new stuff,” Pastor said. “The last Dash was on its way out when I started, and now we have a fleet of all jets. I see definite progress being made in this company…and I like it!”
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