“I like naps, pizza and baked goods. I’m kind of boring,” said First Officer Greta James when asked to complete this Q&A. Greta is many things, but boring is NOT one of them. Born and raised in Lebanon, she’s visited more than 20 countries, speaks three languages (fluently!) and is a pet lover. She’s flown 580 hours in her first year and a half at CommutAir (C5) and is a regular at headquarters in Cleveland, where she assists in pilot interviews. In January, she was accepted into United’s Aviate program.
How did you get started in aviation?
I turned 18 years old and decided to start my private pilot license, just for fun. There are very few female pilots in Lebanon. My family thought it was just a passing phase — I was top of my class so they expected me to do something else. But then I fell in love with it and it became a career.
What made you join CommutAir?
Because I live in New Jersey, just 35 minutes from the airport, I was looking for a small company that had a Newark base. And of course, I wanted an airline with the right cultural fit for me.
C5 had everything I was looking for! Everyone was so welcoming and encouraging on the phone, on Skype, and face to face.
Commutair really is a big family! Even as we’re growing, management works very hard to care for their employees and ensure it still feels like a small company. I was welcomed into the family with open arms, and taken on a tour to meet everyone on my very first day.
You said it feels like a big family. Can you expand on that?
Five weeks into training, my father passed away. (This is difficult to talk about, but it really says a lot about CommutAir.) It was very painful and sad, and professionally, the timing could not have been worse. But I was surrounded by so much love and support from my Commutair Family, everyone was checking on me and helping me get through the loss. Everyone — classmates, instructors, ground training manager etc.. I did not feel alone, not even for a second. Even though I barely knew these people, they were there for me. I took 10 days off and when I returned, everyone helped me get back on my feet to push through the rest of the training.
Looking back at the experience, I was very fortunate to have met such amazing people and work for such an understanding company. I am forever grateful.
This was my first part 121 training. Ground school took place in Washington Dulles and the sim sessions in Cincinnati. Everything went as planned and as scheduled. We were given all the tools to succeed. Instructors are very knowledgeable and most of them stay at the same hotel as the students. Everyone hung out in the lobby at night, studied, grabbed meals. My classmates and I exchanged numbers and started a group chat. Flash forward a year and a half later, we’re on the line, we’re still friends, and we still use the group chat to share jokes, stories and achievements.
What is life like on the line?
Life on the line is a mix of everything! It is very rewarding, but can be stressful and tiring at times, especially when dealing with weather and delays. What makes the day go smoother are the people you work with. It is all about the people.
Safety is our number one concern, safety of our customers, safety of the crew, and safety of the airplane. After that comes passenger convenience. We go above and beyond for our passengers and try to provide the best customer service — take care of them, their pets, bags, music instruments, camera equipment etc. When the day is over, my entire crew meets over dinner or breakfast the following morning. This extra time has allowed us to get to know each other and become friends outside of work, which is really nice.
Attitude is everything on the line! Positivity is contagious to the people working around you.
Do you have any advice for someone applying/ interviewing at CommutAir?
Just be yourself, everyone else is taken! There is power in being authentic!
You recently interviewed with United Airlines for their Aviate Program. What was that like?
I interviewed with United on January 24th 2020 in Denver, CO. It was a great experience, everyone was so welcoming and friendly. They want you to succeed and be a good fit into their big family. They walk you through the whole process (and keep you hydrated. Denver is a very dry climate!)
I am happy to share that I got accepted into the program! When they called, I was so thrilled that I didn’t know what to say. But I am very excited and looking forward into transitioning to United!
Words of wisdom to share with future aviators?
Never give up on your dreams, keep working hard until you reach your goals. Hard work does pay off. And when you finally make it to the top, stay humble and help inspire and mentor people around you.
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