When you think of aviation maintenance, you probably picture mechanics using all sorts of tools to tinker with massive engines and replace various aircraft components. But where do they get the parts and those specialized tools? Inventory Clerks are responsible for the parts and tools in our Technical Stores. Each Maintenance base, aka airplane hangar, has a Technical Store where A&P Mechanics, Avionics Technicians, and Inspectors can get aircraft components or checkout tools of the trade.
Alex joined our Maintenance team as an Inventory Clerk nearly a year ago. In 2020, she was looking for a change of pace. As a nurse, the stress, loss, and magnitude of the pandemic were weighing on her. Alex’s mom suggested exploring our Inventory Clerk opening while deciding on a school to further her medical education. “This sounds fun,” Alex thought. “I can do this every day, and it’s not stressful.”
Every shift as an Inventory Clerk is different. Alex explained, mornings are generally quieter and when they ship out repairable components. “We do more than I thought in the scope of things,” Alex said after reminiscing about starting in the position. “We ship big stuff, and I learned how to use the forklift.” Things pick up during the night shift when the Fed Ex shipment comes. Inventory Clerks catalog the incoming parts in the computer system and stock them on the shelves.
Inventory Clerks also have “pick lists” for every shift, which lists tools and parts the mechanics need to maintain and fix the aircraft at the hangar. Alex searches for things by finding the part number in our computer system, which tells her where the item is stored. “There are so many places we put things,” she explained. Daily, Inventory Clerks also ship parts to other Technical Stores locations.
Communication is essential on our Maintenance team. Let’s say an aircraft needs unexpected maintenance. The necessary part might be in Milwaukee, and the plane might be routed to Dayton because it’s the closest maintenance base. In this case, the Inventory Clerk on duty in Milwaukee would pack the high-priority part and ensure it ended up on one of our planes headed to Dayton. Then, the Inventory Clerk in Dayton might drive to the terminal to pick it up.
While computer and communication skills are vital to this position, don’t worry if you’ve never worked in aviation before. Most of our Inventory Clerks haven’t. If you have a question, ask! You’ll find Air Wisconsin team members are friendly. “I don’t know what different parts and tools do, but I ask, and [the mechanics] are really nice about telling me,” Alex said. “I always love the people I work with, and I enjoy being around planes.” Alex has always loved to travel, but working in a hangar is the first time she’s gotten to see how the aviation industry works behind the scenes.
One of the best things about working at Air Wisconsin–besides the people–is the travel privileges. Alex was no stranger to the concept. Her mom works at DGS, an aviation ground handling company, and Alex used her mother’s travel privileges for years. Now, she’s able to travel to Texas for a wedding, explore the Alaskan wilderness, and visit countless destinations using her own privileges. It’s an exciting perk for all full-time Air Wisconsin employees.
Congratulations! The runway is in sight, and you’ve built enough hours to start seriously considering what regional to fly for as a First Officer. You’ve probably been wondering, which regional airline is the best? “Best” is relative. It’s easy to get caught up in hourly pay or base locations and not consider all of the other elements of a pilot contract that will impact your quality of life. What’s “best” depends on what matters to you and how flying for that airline will complement your life.
It’s vital to do some research and understand the rules of the pilot contract before joining a regional airline. While some regional airlines have similar rules, all of the contracts are different. Here are some items to look for before you make your big decision.
LOOKING BEYOND BLOCK HOUR RATE: HOW DO YOU GET PAID?
What’s the highest paying regional airline? The answer isn’t as simple as block hour pay. Some regional airlines have impressive hourly rates until you realize all of the time you’re not being paid for. The clock tracking a pilot’s hourly pay starts when the passenger door closes prior to takeoff and stops when the door opens for any reason, like a weather delay, gate return, or arriving at your destination. If your flight is delayed due to weather and you’re sitting in the terminal or on the aircraft with the door open, you’re not being paid a block hour rate. It’s essential to look at the rest of the contract and understand how you are paid.
Air Wisconsin, unlike other regionals, has Duty and Trip Rigs (regulations) in place that ensure pilots are paid more for their time and that time is used more efficiently. We calculate pilot pay three ways—by block hour, Duty Rigs, and Trip Rigs—and you get paid the highest number.
Duty Rigs have a 2:1 guarantee. Let’s say your plane experiences a mechanical issue, and you’re sitting for 4 hours waiting for the plane to be fixed. Under Air Wisconsin’s Duty Rigs, you’ll be paid for at least 2 hours of your regular rate. If you fly for a regional without Duty Rigs, you aren’t compensated for that time.
Trip Rigs work the same way with a 4:1 guarantee. For example, if you spend 85 hours away from your base during your 4 day trip, you’ll be paid for at least 21.5 hours of your hourly rate.
Duty and Trip Rigs incentivize the company to schedule trips more efficiently, meaning you’re making the most out of your time away from home. You’ll sit less, so you can build flight hours faster. When you do sit due to weather, maintenance, or another issue, you’re still being compensated for that time.
INCENTIVES: WHAT ARE YOU PAID FOR ADDITIONAL FLYING?
If you want to build hours quickly by picking up trips on your days off, look for a contract that offers extra hourly pay as an incentive. All additional flying at Air Wisconsin is paid at 150% or 200%. The exact amount is determined by the operational resources team based on how critical the trip is to the operation. In some situations, a First Officer or Captain may be given a junior man assignment to cover a critical trip, which is always paid at 200%.
CHECK THE COMMUTER CLAUSE: WHERE DO YOU WANT TO LIVE?
As a pilot, you’ll have a few different crew bases, aka domiciles, throughout your career, especially if you go onto a mainline carrier. A big question pilots ask themselves is, do I move to the base or commute? It’s entirely up to you since everyone’s situation is different. If you have a family, moving may be less desirable. You might also really love your community. If commuting is on the table for you, be sure to check out the commuter clause for any airline whose wings you want to wear.
Air Wisconsin, for example, has a generous, straightforward commuting clause. We say, live where you want. Give yourself two chances to make your show time, which is when you’re supposed to report for duty. If you can’t make it because flights are canceled, delayed, or full, so you can’t deadhead or fly standby, there’s no strike against you. More than likely, our crew schedulers will buy a ticket to get you where you need to be in our operation.
MAKING THE MOST OUT OF VACATION
Who doesn’t love time off to recuperate and use those travel privileges to explore the world? Always check an airline’s pilot contract to see how vacations are handled. Air Wisconsin has an exciting rule in the contract called trip touching.
Our pilots bid for their primary and secondary vacations. When the schedule comes out, if a trip touches any part of your primary vacation, the trip is automatically dropped, and you’re paid in full for the dropped trip. It’s an easy way to turn 7 days off into 21 days off or more!
For secondary vacations, if a trip touches the first day of your vacation, you will not be required to show until noon the following day at the earliest. This gives you more time to report to your domicile. If a trip touches the last day of your secondary vacation, then you will be released no later than noon the day before your first vacation day.
DO THEY HAVE DUAL QUALIFICATION?
Dual qualification is something you hope not to see in your pilot contract and something Air Wisconsin does not do. When some regionals upgrade Captains, they still keep those pilots qualified as First Officers as well. This means those airlines can fly their pilots as First Officers unless they need them in the left seat. An airline may promise to offer an “immediate upgrade” and then require those “Captains” to remain in the right seat unless they are needed in the left. This means you could swap seats mid-trip or spend a day or months in the right seat even though you’re a “Captain.”
At Air Wisconsin, dual qualification is strictly prohibited according to the contract. Captains are upgraded according to seniority and will remain a Captain unless downgrades occur. Downgrades are rare at Air Wisconsin and have only happened when the industry was under extreme duress.
WHEN CAN YOU EXPECT PAY INCREASES?
In addition to yearly longevity pay increases, Air Wisconsin has automatic annual hourly pay increases of 1.5% every October as part of our pilot contract. Additionally, our pilots have seen consistent pay increases every time a new tentative agreement is ratified.
SITS: DO YOU GET A DAY ROOM?
When considering a regional airline, talk to pilots about how many block hours they actually fly and how long they sit, which means how much time they have between flights. It’ll give you a good idea of how much money you’ll make as a pilot for that airline. Of course, Air Wisconsin pilots are paid for more of their time on their road, so keep that in mind.
Some regional airlines offer day rooms, meaning the airline will purchase a hotel room for you if your sit is longer than a certain amount of time. For Air Wisconsin, a crew scheduler will get you a day room for any sit longer than 4.5 hours.
PARTNERSHIPS: WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE CAREER GOAL?
Many pilots consider regionals to be a stepping stone to mainline carriers, and some regionals have pipelines set up to those big names. For example, Air Wisconsin partners with United Airlines in their Aviate program, the most direct and secure path to a United flight deck. Unlike other pipelines, you’re not locked in. You can apply to other carriers if your desires change down the line. You’re also not guaranteed a spot like you are in a “flow” program. Under Aviate, you still need to interview with United and have a record they find acceptable. However, you could get to United faster versus a flow program to another mainline carrier.
Also, Air Wisconsin has plenty of pilots who choose to spend their entire career at the company until they retire at 65. This group of experienced individuals is extremely valuable to the pilot culture and a testament to the quality of life as a pilot at Air Wisconsin.
GO WITH YOUR GUT
After you do your research and talk to pilots who fly for the airline you’re considering, you’ll know what’s best for you. If you still have questions, reach out to the recruiting team.
Pilots have many different career options. You can operate cargo flights, become a full-time instructor, choose a military career, fly helicopters or private jets, become a commercial pilot, etc. Your ultimate career goals will help you decide which flight school fits your needs, and it begins with choosing the type of program you want.
1.) Part 61 vs. Part 141 Flight Training
When choosing a flight school, two different types of programs are available. You can build hours in a Part 61 or Part 141 program. Both have their advantages and respective minimum standards for training set by Federal Aviation Regulations.
Part 61 programs are more informal, and your local flight school likely falls into this category. This path is suited to part-time students. You have more control over your flight instructor; although, choices may be limited at smaller schools. You may also need more flight hours to accomplish your career goal.
If you’re looking to earn a degree in a structured environment, check out Part 141 programs. The FAA regularly audits schools in this group. Courses are also FAA-approved, and the school must meet a minimum threshold for pass rates. Larger schools like Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University or Western Michigan University are more likely to fall into this category; however, they may also offer a Part 61 program.
Captain Avreet Randhawa, a former instructor, shared her advice and said, “Each student has different training preferences, and these programs can help [you] choose the pace [you] want to work at. Also, it is good to check the fleet type. It can make a difference when [you] are transitioning to jets.”
Depending on your career goals, you may opt for one path over another. We covered this topic in our blog “Choosing Your Path to Becoming a Commercial Pilot.” It’s worth a read if you need more insight. Rest assured, you can become a commercial pilot regardless of which program you choose. Your requirements will just be different.
Unfortunately, becoming a pilot isn’t cheap. According to the pilots we surveyed on Twitter, the main factor to consider when choosing a flight school was a tie between cost and location.
Some student pilots choose schools in warmer locations to fly more throughout the year and complete their FAA required hours faster. If you’re a part-time student, building hours at the local flight school is exceptionally convenient. Perhaps you want a degree and choose a school near family or friends. Once you talk to other pilots about their journeys, you’ll hear many different stories. As a pilot, you’re essentially reading a choose your adventure book. Build the path that’s right for you.
While researching flight schools, you’ll realize that some schools and universities have affiliations with different regional or mainline carriers. Choosing a school with a pathway that lands you at the airline of your dreams is appealing. Some people find it comforting to have a blueprint for their pilot journey. That being said, note that some pathways require a contract while others do not.
Air Wisconsin’s Airman Trainee program was an example of the latter. We haven’t made any announcements yet, but we plan to bring an enhanced version of this program back, allowing student pilots a quicker path to flying for us.
If you’d love to fly for United one day, check out the Aviate program. United teams with various schools and regional airline partners, like Air Wisconsin Airlines, offering the fastest route to the United flight deck. You aren’t required to sign a contract if you enroll in the Aviate program and can apply to other airlines. Other mainline carriers have pathways too.
5.) Quality of the Instructors
Learning to fly in various types of conditions is fun and stressful. Quality instruction is critical. Once you learn bad habits, it’s difficult to unlearn them. Finding an instructor or instructors you connect with makes a difference and leads to a more pleasant experience.
If you can attend an open house or meet the CFIs (Certified Flight Instructors), go. Ask about training styles and see how they fit with your learning style. You can also learn a lot by talking to former students.
6.) Reputation and the Experiences of Others
Our Assistant Chief Pilot Doug McEnerney highly suggests talking to current students or alumni at any school you’re interested in attending. “When choosing a flight school, try to reach out to alumni or current students and hear what they have to say about their experience with the program. If you find that they generally have positive things to say and you like talking with people who went/go there, it’s probably a good fit!”
It’s easier than you think to get this feedback. Facebook has numerous groups where pilots share advice. Join one and pose the question. You can check out pilot mentorship programs like Professional Pilots of Tomorrow or reach out to active pilots on social media. Ask around; you may have a fellow aviation fan who knows someone who went to the school you’re considering. The flight school itself is also a resource. Ask for names of current or past students that you can talk to about their experience.
Build Your Path
As you talk to other pilots, you’ll hear lots of advice. What matters to one person may not be the most important factor to consider in your eyes. If you do the research and listen to your gut, you’ll make the right decision.
If anything is true in aviation, it’s that you’ll be continuously learning acronyms throughout your career. If you’re just starting in the industry, be forewarned, and don’t be overwhelmed. Natural curiosity will guide you; ask when you hear one you don’t know.
We polled our community of fans on Instagram to identify what they consider the essential acronyms in aviation, and many pilots responded. You’ll undoubtedly notice some important ones missing because there are so many, but consider this a place to start.
*Some acronyms have multiple popular interpretations for some letters, but the intent is the same. Depending on your instructors or where you did your research, you may notice some differences on this list.
Aviation is one of the most regulated industries in the world, so it’s no surprise you’ll learn acronyms that revolve around safety, starting with you. Before boarding any aircraft to fly, do a self-assessment and make sure you’re in the right headspace. If you are not 100% ready to fly, don’t. These acronyms are most commonly associated with pilots, but IMSAFE is helpful for any safety-sensitive position.
IMSAFE I – Illness M – Medication S – Stress A – Alcohol F – Fatigue E – Emotions/Eating
PAVE P – Pilot A – Aircraft V – enVironment E – External Pressures
Many aviation acronyms are checklists. These are just a few that you’ll repeat all the time.
ARROW – Make sure you have all required documents. Sometimes instructors teach AROW, without Radio Station License. A – Airworthiness Certificate R – Radio Station License R – Registration Certificate O – Operation Limitations W – Weight and Balance
AVIATES – Always verify the airworthiness of an aircraft, and make sure all required maintenance is completed and up-to-date. A – Annual Check V – VORs 1 – 100 Hour Check A – Altimeter/Pitot Static T – Transponder E – Emergency Location Transmitter S – Static Inspection
NWKRAFT – Prepare for each flight by having all of the relevant information. N – NOTAMs (A NOTAM is a notice with essential information about flight operations.) W – Weather K – Known Air Traffic Control (ATC) Delays R – Runway Lengths A – Alternate Airport F – Fuel T – Takeoff and Landing Distances
ATOMATOFLAMES – This checklist covers the equipment required for Visual Flight Rules (VFR) during the day. A – Altimeter T – Tachometer O – Oil Pressure Gauge M – Magnetic Compass A – Airspeed Indicator T – Temperature Gauge O – Oil Temperature Gauge E – Emergency Location Transmitter F – Fuel Gauge L – Landing Gear Extension Lights A – Anti-Collision Lights M – Manifold Pressure Gauge E – ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter) S – Seatbelts
FLAPS – Verify your equipment required for Visual Flight Rules (VFR) during the night. F – Fuses L – Landing Light A – Anti-Collision Lights P – Position lights S – Source of power
GRABCARD – You’ll remember the minimum equipment required under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) using this acronym. G – Generator or Alternator R – Radio/Navigation Appropriate For Flight A – Attitude Indicator B – Ball (Inclinometer) C – Clock A – Altimeter R – Rate of Turn Indicator D – Directional Gyro
Communication is essential when on the ground and especially when in the air. Air Wisconsin makes it a point to teach pilots how to communicate with each other in the cockpit, disagree and have a productive conversation, and properly communicate with the Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower during training. Pilots must also be tuned in and engaged. You’ll hear these acronyms often.
A – Aviate
N – Navigate
C – Communicate
THE 5 Ts – The pilot who suggested this acronym admitted he never thought much of it as a student, but as a CFII, he can’t remind students enough.
T – Time
T – Twist
T – Throttle
T – Talk
The 3 Ps
P – Perceive
P – Process
P – Perform
D – Detect
E – Estimate
C – Choose
I – Identify
D – Do
E – Evaluate
We wanted to include one more essential acronym—SAFETY. Always brief your passengers, if any are aboard. If you choose to become a commercial pilot, the Inflight announcement will cover most of the items listed below. However, if your pilot journey includes flying a helicopter, private charters, teaching, operating discovery flights, taking friends and family up for a ride, etc., it’ll be your responsibility.
S – Seat Belts
A – Air Ventilation
F – Fire Extinguisher
E – Emergency Procedure
T – Traffic
Y – “Your Questions”
What do you think is the most crucial acronym in aviation? If it’s not on our list, comment below to add it and help out future aviators reading this blog. As a bonus, we’ve compiled resources below worth checking out if you want to learn more acronyms or common industry abbreviations.
We continue to share insight from women throughout Air Wisconsin Airlines on our social media channels and in this blog series to acknowledge their contributions and to inspire. These women all have different stories, which gives them a unique perspective on what it takes to succeed, what’s truly important, and how to live your best life.
Like the women featured in this series, we also hope that educating girls and women on the types of jobs available will encourage them to explore the exciting world of aviation. The industry is male-dominated now, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Whether you dream of the sky, love numbers, always tinker with mechanical objects or just have a general interest in aviation, there’s a path waiting for you.
Every time you face a challenge, it could be a defining moment. Nidhi finds success in uncomfortable situations by pushing herself to learn and grow. In school, she was terrified of public speaking and realized no one could solve her problem for her. Nidhi committed to sharing something valuable in every presentation, meeting, or conversation and slowly got over her fear.
Get out of your comfort zone. Go out there and start learning. No one ever shared this advice with Nidhi. She had to figure it out herself, but she credits this advice with getting her where she is today.
As a Financial Analyst, Nidhi performs multifaceted financial analysis related to operating costs, new business initiatives, labor negotiations with our various unions, etc. She also provides benchmark data to support decision-making, among other things. Nidhi knew she wanted to work in aviation, but one last challenge was in the way.
“I graduated last year in May with my Master’s degree in Aviation Finance. Due to the pandemic, being a new graduate was even tougher than usual… The only thing that did NOT change is the fact that I kept learning no matter what. I’d wake up every day, reach out to my mentors for guidance, keep looking for jobs, enroll in online classes that I found beneficial, and just kept going. Stopping was not an option I wanted to pursue, so I didn’t…
In the past, I have been told ‘Fake it ’till you make it’ or ‘Just suck it up’ when I was seeking advice from others. Now that I am living my life, those phrases hardly mean anything. Personally, I think you have to just be authentic and most importantly, kind to yourself. Just like everyone in this world, I have problems. Pretending like they do not exist does no good to me or anyone. So, my advice is to wake up, dress up, show up, have great coffee, and do such an incredible job that you feel self-motivated every single day without the need for external validation. Become the person you wish to seek advice from.”
— Nidhi Trambadia
Like pilots and aviation mechanics, Aircraft Dispatchers are predominately male but have more female representation. Fewer than 5,000 female dispatchers work in the U.S. Aviation industry. According to the FAA, they account for 19.4% of the group as of 2019. Jen joined the ranks after she decided to pursue a career as an Aircraft Dispatcher while working as a Ramp Agent.
Since joining Air Wisconsin, Jen’s career has evolved so much because she took the initiative and seized every opportunity that came her way. Say yes and get involved—that’s what we learn from Jen. Carpe diem!
“I am very proud of being a part of the Air Wisconsin Airlines Dispatch team. I started about 14 years ago as a Dispatcher after leaving the ramp in Minneapolis. I cross-trained as a Dispatch Coordinator and teach Recurrent Training. I also got Air Transportation Supervisor qualified, so I could conduct Competency Checks for Dispatchers. I am a member of the company’s Dispatch-Aviation Safety Action Program committee, working with the FAA to identify significant safety concerns and other unusual events. Finally, I ended up as a Dispatch Trainer. I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given as part of the Dispatch team. It’s challenging, and I get to work with an amazing group of people.”
— Jen Sloper
Since joining our company, Emily continues to let herself shine. Her contributions were noticed, and about a year after becoming a Flight Attendant, she was promoted to Inflight Domicile Manager. In this role, Emily oversaw the entire Inflight team based at her location. Not letting the expectations of others limit her goals, Emily earned another promotion to Hub Performance Manager.
In this role, Emily liaisons between Air Wisconsin and United’s hubs and outstations. Her keen eye is always focused on our operation and improving our performance. Emily reminds us to shoot for the stars.
“Don’t let norms dictate your goals; create goals to break the norms.”
— Emily Chaudhry
Some people have aviation in their blood. Bonnie was always going to work in the industry. First, she joined the Air Force for Air Traffic Control, and while waiting to hear back from the FAA on a position, she became a Flight Attendant. Later, a female First Officer suggested Bonnie take an observation flight to see if she wanted to be a pilot. Bonnie fell in love.
That female pilot became Bonnie’s mentor and still is to this day. That experience changed Bonnie’s life, and she believes in paying it forward by helping others who want to follow in her footsteps. Bonnie’s advice to future pilots is to always do the right thing and surround yourself with people who strive to be better every day. She proves that your path may not be easy or clear, but if you stay focused and invest in yourself, you’ll find a way.
“… She told me to take an observation flight, and I’d know in 5 minutes if it was the thing for me. I instantly fell in love with flying. After that, I bit the bullet, took out a loan, and took a chance on myself. I earned my ratings at ATP. I was given a chance to fly C208 caravans at 252 hours and still kept my job as a Flight Attendant to cover my bills. I would take the train to the Philadelphia airport after my 4 days of flying, sleep in the Minute Suites, and pick up my trip as a Flight Attendant and then commute home for 1 day off. I did that for 2 years to build my hours. Finally, I reached that magic number and went to chat with airlines at Sun and Fun, and that’s where I was introduced to Air Wisconsin. I haven’t looked back since.
The road may be tough and arduous at times, and some people will want to see you fail, but with true passion for the industry and drive in your heart, you will be unstoppable. I am so thankful I took a chance on myself and for having strong support from family, my mentor, and friends. I hope to see more women aviators in the sky.”
– Bonnie Rostad
Julia first joined our team as an Avionics Technician. In this role, Julie repaired various parts of the aircraft and performed maintenance like an A&P Mechanic, but additional certification allowed her to work on aircraft electrical systems. After completing our in-house training, she was promoted to her current role as an Inspector.
This vital position provides a check and balance inside of the hangar. Inspectors like Julia observe the mechanics, offer assistance, and double-check work before completing the sign-off. Julia also has the responsibility to inspect parts to determine if they can be refurbished or reused. Knowledge, excellent problem-solving skills, and critical thinking are instrumental in this career path.
Working with great people is one reason why Julia loves her job. Working for a smaller company has its perks and allows her to keep learning every day.
“I like the experience I get while working at Air Wisconsin. It’s a smaller company, so I have been able to learn about all parts of the airplane. Every day brings new challenges that need to be solved by troubleshooting.”
– Julia Darnick
Air Wisconsin is thankful to have such talented and inspiring people on our team. It’s a pleasure to play a developmental role in our employees’ careers and watch them grow.
If you only take one thing with you, let it be this: seize every opportunity to better yourself. And don’t be afraid to create those opportunities yourself. Every person experiences challenges in their life. How will you let those moments define you?
Explore all of our career opportunities HERE, and stay in touch by following us!
This month, we’re highlighting women throughout our company on our social media channels and asking them to share advice or insight. The hope is that their words will inspire others, guide the next generation, and offer encouragement to anyone who needs it.
In this two-part series, you’ll hear from women whose careers are more commonly top-of-mind when you think of aviation and hear from women whose careers are not. We’ll highlight that women tend to be in the minority when it comes to many aviation careers such as pilot, mechanic, or aircraft dispatcher. Companies like Air Wisconsin and the organizations mentioned in this blog are trying to change that by educating girls and women on the types of opportunities available.
This series will also help amplify the voices of the women already in those roles at Air Wisconsin Airlines, providing an example and inspiration for anyone who chooses aviation as their career path. Please join us in celebrating and acknowledging the contributions made by these outstanding women.
As an A&P Mechanic, Kassidy performs maintenance and repairs various parts of the aircraft including working on the engine. This is a very technical job that requires problem-solving skills, the ability to troubleshoot complex problems, and the right certifications. Kassidy loves her job and plays a hands-on role in keeping our operation safe and on-time. She is one of the few female aircraft mechanics in the United States.
In December 2019, only 2.5% of aircraft mechanics in the US were women, according to the FAA. Out of all of the possible careers in aviation, this one has the smallest percentage of women. Many companies like Air Wisconsin are emphasizing the need for more diversity in the field and raising awareness.
Kassidy hopes more women pursue this rewarding career and reminds us all to find our support system. No one accomplishes anything alone.
“Always gaining knowledge and moving forward is what I love about my career. I have earned my place, but I was not walking alone. The individuals that stood by me and lent a helping hand when I needed it will always have my utmost appreciation and gratitude. Tomorrow is why I love working in this industry. Each day is brand new.”
– Kassidy Wykoff
Sonji discovered her passion for aviation by chance. When she graduated from high school, she wanted to become a Registered Nurse. After taking some business classes, Sonji started to lean toward Human Resources Management. But it wasn’t until she was hired as a Ramp Fleet Service Clerk with a mainline carrier that she realized how much she loved the fast-paced aviation industry.
Although she had jobs in other industries after, Sonji still loved aviation and eventually joined our team. Now, Sonji supports our largest crew base and positively impacts the lives of countless people every day. By supporting our crew members, they are better able to take care of our passengers.
Sonji reminds us that the people you work with every day make a world of difference. Find your work family.
“I am very proud of my strong work ethic and my ability to be a team player for the Inflight/Flight team. I am valued. Knowing that my work family appreciates what I do in the office daily motivates me… Follow your dreams, and never compromise your integrity. Every step that you take in life is not easy, but always remain authentic. Figure out your purpose, and strive to reach it. Nothing happens overnight, so be patient with the process. Don’t let your attitude determine your altitude. Be accountable for your actions. Don`t judge others, and encourage others who need direction in this journey called life.”
— Sonji Nicholas
Interested in aviation? Take First Officer Trista’s advice and get involved with an aviation-based organization to explore the many different paths available. She suggests Women in Aviation International, which is the largest and most well-known. Other female-led aviation organizations include but are not limited to Sisters of the Skies and the Ninety-Nines.
If you want to fly as a career, you also have numerous options. During her career, Trista was a flight instructor, flew scenic tours, was part of a fire patrol team, flew corporate flights, and currently flies commercial flights for us under the United Express banner. In December 2019, 7.9% of pilots in the United States were women, according to the FAA. That number is slowly growing as more companies like Air Wisconsin and our partner United Airlines commit to encouraging girls and women to explore aviation and other opportunities in STEM.
Your journey is unique. Find the path that works for you and go for it! Trista is proof that childhood dreams come true if you’re willing to work hard and believe in yourself.
“I would highly recommend getting involved in one of the female aviation organizations like Women in Aviation International. These organizations provide several benefits and opportunities to members such as scholarships, networking, and mentoring… I love so many aspects of working in aviation… Being an airline pilot is all I’ve ever wanted to be since I was 8 years old. Every time an airplane would fly overhead, I would look up in amazement. Now whenever I step into the flight deck, I’m still just as amazed that this is my career. Being responsible for 50 passengers in a multi-million dollar aircraft is a huge privilege.”
— First Officer Trista Higgins
Behind-the-scenes members of our Maintenance team like Cori make up about 30% of our Maintenance department at Air Wisconsin. As the Program Manager of Aircraft Components, Cori’s job impacts our entire operation. She manages all of the repairable components from our aircraft that are sent to third-party vendors for repair. Additionally, Cori ensures these vendors meet or exceed the standards set by our Maintenance Program. She also works closely with other internal departments to verify inventory levels are sufficient to support the operation.
Like many people, it took Cori some time to discover what she really wanted to do as a career. Inspired by her mother, she kept looking until she found one that fit. Cori teaches us not to settle—find something you’re passionate about.
“I would have never guessed that I’d end up in the aviation industry. I grew up watching my mom’s unwavering passion and dedication to her career and knew I wouldn’t be satisfied until I found an industry I was as passionate about. I changed my career path countless times during college until I found the right fit in aviation, and I haven’t looked back. I strive to emulate her passion and dedication and pass this along to my kids. Whether my kids are 5, 17, or 30, I want them to always look for that ‘perfect fit’ in whatever they do in life.”
– Cori Fuller
Lisa was born to soar in the sky. Like many people who become Flight Attendants, she was never interested in the 9-5 lifestyle. Traveling and meeting new people is exciting and a much better way to spend the day. You also have the chance to build strong, life-long friendships with fellow crew members.
Lisa also enjoys taking care of others, which is why being a Flight Attendant is so rewarding. Not only do you help transport people to important events and fun vacations, but you’re primarily responsible for their safety. Lisa reminds us that there’s a whole world to explore and plenty of opportunities for anyone who doesn’t want to sit at a desk all day.
“I love being a Flight Attendant as I love to travel and love customer service. You are always meeting different people from around the world. Come join the friendly skies with me, and I promise you never want to go back to any other job.”
– Lisa Hopkins
Click HERE to read part two. You’ll learn more about the different career paths available within aviation and meet more of the women who help make Air Wisconsin a leader in the regional airline industry.
2020 continues to be a surprising and difficult year, and 2021 won’t be without challenges. With so much out of our control, it feels good to be able to take action and make a positive impact. There are many ways you can give back to others and your community this holiday season and throughout the pandemic. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Air Wisconsin Airlines is not associated with any of the organizations listed below, and we recommend that you research any organization yourself before getting involved.
Check in with the people you care about.
Traditionally, the holidays mean large indoor gatherings, something the CDC suggests we avoid for the foreseeable future. Following CDC guidance is important to protect yourself and your loved ones, but unfortunately, it can be lonely. Maintaining vital connections creates a support system, which is especially beneficial when things get rocky, like during a pandemic. Talk and share a laugh with family and friends, just do it virtually or while social distancing. If you don’t have FaceTime, anyone can sign up for Zoom and use it for free; just know that the free version limits meetings to 40 minutes.
Donate items to nonprofit organizations.
If you discover that you have clothes your kids grew out of last year or household items you don’t use anymore, consider donating them. Remember that the needs of nonprofits may continue to change during the pandemic. Be sure to check their website to see what items they are accepting and what they really need right now.
Volunteer while following CDC preventive guidance.
Many nonprofits need volunteers year-round, like local food banks or Meals on Wheels. Contact nonprofits in your area and ask how you can help. Also, during the pandemic, it’s best to avoid unexpectedly showing up to volunteer as new guidelines or capacity limits may be in place.
Another idea is to volunteer virtually. For example, you could help blind and low vision people complete tasks through BeMyEyes.com. This service is free to blind and low vision people and relies on volunteers. All you need is a mobile device to sign up.
Help community members in need.
Want to help someone, but not sure who needs it? Check Facebook’s COVID-19 Information Center to see who needs help in your area or outright offer help. Picking up groceries for a housebound neighbor and leaving them at the front door is an easy way to make a difference.
You can also check out the Nextdoor app to stay connected to what is going on in your area.
Thank health care workers, first responders, and other essential workers.
No one has seen how ugly and devastating this virus can be more than health care workers and first responders. These and other groups of essential workers keep our communities functioning despite the pandemic. Express your gratitude by:
Recording a video with an uplifting message for someone who deserves it on your cell phone and uploading it to www.6ftcloser.com, a site encouraging recognition of everyday heroes.
Visiting your local hospital’s Facebook page and website. See if they are requesting certain items to help support frontline workers or if they have a program in place for the public to send messages.
Reaching out to essential workers you know and offering to drop off a meal, pick up groceries, or ask how to help them.
Making a yard sign or sign for your window. Turn this into a fun activity for the kids.
Being kind. Tensions can run high during times of stress. Remember, we’re all doing the best we can. Common courtesy goes a long way.
The biggest way you can help essential workers and the general public is by properly wearing a mask, social distancing, and following CDC COVID-19 preventive guidance. In doing so, you can alleviate the burden on hospitals by not unknowingly spreading the virus and not getting sick yourself. If fewer people became ill with the COVID-19 virus, health care professionals could better care for patients.
Helping COVID-19 patients.
As pointed out by the CDC, most people who become ill with COVID-19 can recover at home. Picking up medications or groceries and leaving them at the door are easy ways to help someone recovering at home. You could offer to watch a pet, allowing the person to focus more on themselves. Or, depending on where you live, winter weather means there are walkways to be shoveled.
You’ll also find many worthy charities on the web who help cover hospital costs for COVID-19 patients or help them in another way, but there are some scams too. Before donating money to any organization, read the FTC’s guide on how to verify a charity is legitimate at www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0074-giving-charity#.
Think about how you can use your passion for good.
Do you love reading? Start a virtual book club. Are you a yoga fan? Host a weekly yoga session on Zoom for friends who want to participate. Miss talking with your neighbors or colleagues? Start a weekly social hour and connect on Zoom or FaceTime.
How will you give back?
Every holiday season Air Wisconsin participates in the Salvation Army’s Adopt-A-Family program in Appleton, Wisconsin, where our headquarters is based. Throughout the year, we match employee charitable donations, allowing us to positively impact many of the different communities we serve across the country and support the causes that matter most to our employees. We host blood drives and encourage employees to get involved in their communities. During a normal year, our company also participates in charity runs and events as a team.
Giving back can be done on a larger scale, but it can also be done within your social circle or your community. It’s all about connecting and making a difference. Right now, we could all use more positivity and support. If you choose to give of yourself, you’ll create moments of joy for yourself and others.
Reinforcing our focus on safety, Air Wisconsin Airlines created a new position at all of our maintenance bases—the Quality Control Manager—reporting to the Chief Inspector. This role focuses on the proper implementation of the processes outlined in the General Maintenance Manual as well as DOT, FAA, and other Company policies and procedures. Establishing this position in each base provides more support to Aircraft Inspectors and the Tech Ops team as a whole.
Having another person on the floor with extensive experience allows for more mentorship opportunities. Quality Control Managers use their years of experience inspecting aircraft in FAR Part 121 Air Carrier environments to coach Aircraft Inspectors. By passing on their knowledge, Quality Control Managers help sharpen their co-workers’ skills, making sure that expertise stays within the Air Wisconsin family.
Additionally, these managers contribute to their base in many other ways. Quality Control Managers help oversee work on the hangar floor, assist in building efficient schedules, and ensure the aircraft maintenance records at their base are processed timely and accurately. Additionally, they act as the department liaison with the DOT and FAA in local matters relating to airworthiness and regulatory compliance. Quality Control Managers also assist with internal and FAA audits, among other things.
We’re excited to add this new, impactful role to our Tech Ops team and look forward to finding the best candidates for the job. Learn more about qualifications HERE.
Becoming a commercial pilot is a fun, exciting journey and a long one that will require you to make some decisions fairly early on in the process. Ultimately, your goal is to meet minimum qualifications before you can fly for a commercial airline, but some pilots need more hours and some need less. A handful of factors will determine which path you are on.
Do You Want a Degree?
Whether or not you graduate with a degree from an approved, collegiate-based aviation program, you can be a commercial pilot. Pilots who do not have a degree need to have 1,500 hours total time before flying for a commercial airline and must be at least 23 years old. These requirements are for an unrestricted Airline Pilot Transport (ATP) certificate.
Several factors may allow a pilot to start flying sooner and qualify for a Restricted Airline Pilot Transport certificate (R-ATP). Pilots who have their associate’s degree from an approved program with an aviation major can get their R-ATP with 1,250 hours, and those with their bachelor’s need 1,000 hours total time.
Military pilots qualify for an R-ATP with 750 hours at 21 years old.
What is Your Ultimate Goal?
20% of our pilot workforce will call Air Wisconsin home for the rest of their career. While we do not
require our pilots to have degrees, some U.S. mainline carriers prefer or require pilots to have four year degrees. If you dream of operating large aircraft one day, it’s a good idea to research the requirements for your mainline carrier of choice. It may influence your decision to get or not get a degree.
Air Wisconsin pilots have the opportunity to apply to United’s new pilot career program Aviate. While United prefers a bachelor’s degree, they will and have hired pilots who have other types of experience that they deem comparable.
How Do You Want to Build Hours?
Even if you graduate with a four-year degree and after you get your various required ratings, you will likely still have hours left to fly before you can meet minimums. This obviously isn’t a decision you need to make immediately, but as you progress along your journey talk to your instructors and peers to see what you can learn from their experiences.
Some pilots decide to become Certificated Flight Instructors (CFIs) and may even relocate to an area with more favorable weather to fly more and meet minimums faster. Many schools are looking for instructors and often hire students after graduation to come back and teach.
Others may begin flying for a Part 135 carrier. You might be operating a private charter or transporting cargo. There’s a good chance that you will fly in many different types of weather conditions in this role, which is great experience to have.
Since many other countries have lower total time requirements, sometimes pilots will fly overseas and build up the hours they need to work for an airline in the US.
To Sum It Up
No one size fits all path exists for a person who wants to become a commercial pilot. You get to decide which path is right for you based on your career goals.
You can find more detailed information on ATP/R-ATP requirements on the bottom of our Pilot page at www.airwis.com/pilots.
Find a list of FAA approved R-ATP eligible schools on the FAA’s website HERE.
You might be surprised to learn having an A&P certificate opens more doors than you think. Everyone pictures the mechanic working on the GE engine—which is an excellent and rewarding career path—but, did you know 30% of our Tech Ops team is made up of support roles? Many jobs are available beyond working on the aircraft.
Maintenance Controllers are the primary point of contact for all maintenance issues on our fleet. They work in the brain of our operation, the Systems Operation Center. If you’ve ever been on a flight waiting to takeoff when suddenly there is a maintenance issue, a Maintenance Controller is the one who determines the airworthiness of the maintenance issue, and if needed, sends a mechanic to fix the problem. They ensure airworthy aircraft are available for every flight and direct contingency maintenance during operations as needed.
While these detail oriented individuals never touch the aircraft, they are very familiar with how to fix aircraft, and most of them have past experience doing so. Our typical Maintenance Controller is a former A&P or Avionics Technician who was drawn to the position for the schedule (four days on, four days off with 11 hours shifts), interested in a “desk job,” and ready to do something a little different with their knowledge and skill set.
All of our Maintenance Controllers are based at our headquarters in Appleton, WI. Learn more HERE. Explore all of the openings on our Tech Ops team HERE.
Next, let’s explore what it means to be a Maintenance Planning Coordinator HERE.