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My Journey to Becoming a Professional Pilot

by Chelsea Noel

My journey of becoming a professional airline pilot started when I was 17 years old. Looking up to the vast blue sky and knowing I had a place up there was an indescribable feeling. As a junior in high school, I took my dream career and turned it into a reality. I started flight training and never looked back.

I earned my Private Pilot Certificate before heading off to college in the fall of 2011. This allowed me to be one step ahead of my classmates and let me explore the world of aviation deeper. While in college, I obtained my instrument, commercial, multi-engine, and multiple flight instructor certificates (CFI, CFI-I, MEI).

During my senior year of college, I was a flight instructor and taught many students who were pursuing the same dream that I was. Teaching gave me a whole new outlook on aviation, as the students were now looking up to me for advice just as I had looked up to my instructors as a student.

After graduation, I moved out to Las Vegas, where I flew Twin Otters for a sightseeing company called Grand Canyon Airlines. This was my first job away from my home environment, and I had to take all my skills and knowledge and apply them in a new setting. I was able to adapt to my new environment quickly. I gained valuable experience while flying over the Grand Canyon and was able to take those skills to the next level.

Once I built up the minimum flight time to become a first officer at an airline, I applied and received a job offer at Endeavor Airlines, a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta Air Lines. I had reached my dream career of being an airline pilot. It definitely wasn’t easy, as there were many stressful nights before check rides and written knowledge exams along the way. Although I may be at a regional carrier, my main goal is to become a captain at Delta Air Lines flying the Boeing 757/767.

When it comes to balancing training and class work, it can be difficult, but when it’s your passion, the training becomes easier. Every day, I look forward to flying and seeing how well I can put my skills to the test. Flying a plane can be difficult due to the various types of weather and terrain in the area. Exercising my knowledge and skills to the highest abilities makes every flight hour worth it. Knowing I’m transporting hundreds of people a day to their destination is a feeling that keeps me wanting to be a better pilot.

I was thankful to have knowledgeable and inspiring instructors during my entire time of flight training. Jim Royse, my private pilot instructor, taught me skills that have stuck with me to this very day. I may be an airline transport pilot, but I still go back to my roots and apply what I learned as a private pilot in a professional setting.