Q&A: Captain Don Martel Has Never Felt Drawn to Leave CommutAir

Captain Don Martel has been with CommutAir (C5) since April of 2001 and said he’s never felt drawn to go anywhere else. “The balance at CommutAir works for me,” he said. He’s set to retire in September 2020 and spends the majority of his time as a line check pilot and examiner.


How did you get started in aviation?

DM: My wife bought me a flying lesson for our anniversary. We were just starting out so she worked an extra shift to pay for it. I went to the airport and came back hooked.


What made you consider the C5 Family? What brought you here?

DM: At the time, my wife and I ran a Fixed Base Operation (FBO) and we had five or six CommutAir pilots who flew out of there. They kept telling me I should check out CommutAir, so I did.

One of them was the then-Chief Pilot. He walked in my application and I got the interviews — and then the job. For me, the entire process was laid-back and welcoming. Even though the process is probably a bit different now, I understand that hasn’t changed!


Describe the training process at CommutAir.

DM: The training was vigorous. In 2001, it felt like sink or swim — which was standard for all airlines at the time. We were taught from day one to function as a crew or team because that’s how you ensure success. That holds true today.


What’s life like on trips?

DM: The family-like culture is the best part of the job and a culture we must always strive to protect and foster.

On the line, we travel to a lot of different places, each one of which has something to offer. My feeling has always been there must be something here or passengers wouldn’t travel there. So be it an interesting geological formation or a great restaurant, there is always something to see or do on a trip.

Sometimes a crew will just sit around a have a nice conversation.


How many hours have you accumulated since you joined C5?

DM: As a check-ride pilot, I spend a lot of time training, but have accumulated an additional 10,000 hours or so.


How did you become a line check pilot?

DM: I originally flew the Dash for CommutAir, and was named a check airman as a result of being in the initial cadre of pilots who transitioned to the jets.

I’m retiring in September, but I certainly derive gratification from the hope that, in some small way, I may have a positive influence on someone else’s career.


Any advice for others in your shoes?

DM: Enjoy the ride. It amazes me how many people struggle to get to a regional, as their final destination or even as a career step, but then don’t enjoy what it has to offer.

A regional may not be where you plan to spend your entire career, but take advantage of the chance to learn all you can while there, and take the time to enjoy the experience and opportunities it offers.

The pay and contracts are undoubtedly better at the majors, but you will never work with a closer group of people than here at CommutAir. You just have relax and allow yourself to enjoy it.

And remember, there are also folks for whom a regional is where they want to stay. Be it because of the convenience of commute, personal preference, or accommodation of an outside interest, there is a life balance wherein swimming in a smaller pond works.

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