Our collegiate Ambassador Program connects current GoJet pilots with student pilots from their former universities or flight schools. There’s a big difference between student flying and commercial flying, and our Ambassadors work with student pilots to prepare them for the transition to the commercial flight deck.
In the first of our “Meet the Ambassador” series, we’d like to introduce Captain Jason Duvernay. Jason is a is a passionate pilot and University of North Dakota alumnus, who lends his time to aviation students from his former school. In our discussion with Jason, he shares his excitement for flying, why he chose GoJet, and his advice for future aviation professionals. Read more below:
Why did you choose to fly with GoJet?
I chose to fly with GoJet for three specific reasons. The first being the company’s internal culture. GoJet is very aware of why I want to work for them. They know my goal is to move on quickly to a major airline and they support me in that goal. Secondly, they have insanely fast progression times — you’re able to move up the seniority list quickly. Third, you’re able to explore your passions. Some pilots enjoy exploring training and management roles. I’ve joined our recruiting efforts and serve as an ambassador for my university.
What made you pursue flying?
I have always loved to travel. When I was a child I was privileged to travel largely because my mother was a travel agent. I also did some foreign student ambassador programs. I knew that I wanted a career which would allow me to travel easily and to experience cultures across this nation and around the world.
What types of things do you share with your Ambassador Program students at UND?
GoJet offers an excellent opportunity to gain flying experience in two very different environments. We do a lot of Rocky Mountain flying for our United operation, while our Delta operation is heavily concentrated on the busy East Coast.
We also have have travel benefits on both airlines, which makes commuting to work and traveling much easier. Additionally, GoJet offers great career advancement opportunities. As an experienced pilot, I was fortunate to be hired as a Direct Entry Captain. GoJet is the only regional airline with this program. If you come to GoJet and adequately prepare yourself for the responsibility, you will be able to upgrade to Captain quickly!
What advice would you give to young pilots?
Keep your logbook organized and accurate! If you maintain a detailed history of where you have lived, jobs you’ve had and other pertinent information, it could help you obtain a position. I’d also recommend that students jump at any chance to gain new experiences such as internships. Also, show respect and ask questions from those who are more experienced, and maintain contact with your friends in the industry.
The path to flying commercially can be daunting, especially for student pilots who are just starting to earn their hours. That’s why GoJet offers collegiate aviators a streamlined pathway to a First Officer position at GoJet. Our Wingman internship program identifies promising pilots while they’re still in flight school and gives them a behind the scenes look at what to expect when they land their first commercial airline job. Plus, our pilot mentors walk participants through the process of becoming a GoJet pilot upon completion of ATP minimums.
Other benefits include tuition reimbursement, referral bonuses, flight benefits, and advance training opportunities, including simulator time.
One of the student pilots currently benefiting from the program is Mario Otchere. The son of Ghanaian immigrants , Mario is currently a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) and working on a Master’s Degree in Aviation Safety at Saint Louis University. Mario’s aviation aspirations began at a very early age, and his parents were very supportive of his goal to become a pilot. “My dad especially loved the idea,” he remarked. “He shared the same dream, but he never had the opportunity to fulfill it himself.”
Being the first pilot in his family, his parents had no airline or flight training connections to start him on the right path. “We basically just kind of shot in the dark,” Mario recalls. After training in Dubuque, Iowa, Mario and his family quickly learned how expensive it could be to become a pilot. Mario learned about the Wingman program when researching programs that offset the cost of flight training. “At the time,” he confessed, “all I knew about GoJet was that it was a small airline in St. Louis. It stood out because it wasn’t one of the major airlines that are often pushed onto students when they’re beginning to formulate their career goals.”
Since beginning the program in 2016, Mario has taken full advantage of everything it has to offer, including pass travel benefits and advance training opportunities. “I’ve had the opportunity to view and experience some of the same things as line pilots, and have even spent some time in the simulator.” Now that he’s had a behind the scenes look at what it’s like to be a GoJet pilot, he’s ready to become one.
“My goal is the be in the right seat of a GoJet CRJ in 12 to 20 months. I look forward to the pay, as well as the quick upgrade time. Both will really help me pay off my student loans.”
Mario is confident that his experience as a Wingman will pay off down the road in his aviation career. “The Wingman program has given me an in-depth feel as to how an airline operates,” he remarked. I already have a strong foot in the door with GoJet, and with everything I’ve learned, I’ll be fully prepared for training.”
If you’re an ambitious, career-minded student pilot looking to get a head start on your commercial aviation career, then this program is for you. Click here to get started.
We love seeing our pilots achieve their career goals. Nick Bolander began his airline career with GoJet in 2012, and upgraded to Captain just two years later. Five years to the day after he was hired at GoJet, he was was offered a First Officer position at FedEx. When he looks back over the past five years, Nick credits his experience at GoJet with getting him to where he is today.
When Nick began FedEx’s training program earlier this year, he discovered that GoJet’s training program had paved the way for his success. He was pleasantly surprised to find that much of the material was familiar – it had been covered five years ago when he was a new hire at GoJet.
“There were some slight differences here and there, but a lot of it was similar to my new hire training at GoJet,” he remarked. “GoJet’s training program really paid off down the road and ensured that I was comfortable later in my career.”
Nick also found that the five years he spent flying the CRJ700/900 provided an excellent foundation for learning to fly larger equipment. “The CRJ is a good building block plane, and CRJ flying put me on solid footing to pick up on new systems,” he explained. “While larger aircraft have more technological features, I was able grasp them quickly because the CRJ gave me a good understanding of aircraft operations and functionality.”
“Since day one,” he said, “there were always chances to get involved beyond being a line pilot. Everything I was able to do offered a new and different perspective into my career path, and helped prepare me for future training.”
In addition to heading a Safety committee, Nick worked on behalf of the pilot’s union to help Scheduling and Dispatch ensure more efficient lines by testing software that rebuilt projected trips and restructured trip pairings.
“On top of being a pilot,” Nick explains, “this helped me better understand how an airline works, from both a Dispatch and Scheduling perspective.”
Nick now plans to fly for FedEx for the remainder of his career. “I’ll most likely be flying here until I retire or until I can’t fly anymore, whichever comes first,” he laughs. However, even though he’s moved on, Nick is still close with his former colleagues.
“Whether they’re still there or have also moved on, the friendships I made at GoJet have stuck with me just as strongly as my training.”
Nick is just one of the many GoJet pilots who have gone on to fly for some of the top airlines in the world. If you’re looking for an airline experience that’s going to give you the training and experience you need to achieve your career goals, drop our pilot recruiters a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When GoJet Captain Bob Layman put in his retirement paperwork, he had one final request for Crew Scheduling. There was a certain pilot that he really wanted in the right seat for his last trip – his son, GoJet Captain Nathan Layman. The two had flown together a few times before Nate upgraded to Captain, and Bob hoped to repeat the experience before he retired.
Bob knew that it would be tricky – the two were based in different domiciles, and the likelihood of two Captains from different domiciles being paired together on the same trip was virtually nil. But Bob couldn’t imagine a better way to end his 121 career than flying with his son – could Crew Scheduling pull it off?
The answer was yes. While Bob had hoped to fly a leg or two with his son to mark his retirement, Crew Scheduling, with the help of St. Louis Base Manager Nikki Lutz, gave Bob the best last trip he could have asked for – a four-day trip with his son. The result was an unforgettable and emotional experience for both men.
During the final flight of the trip, Bob told the passengers that there was something special about their flight, and that he had a story to share with them. That story went something like this:
“I know those of you with kids understand what love at first site feels like. Back in February of 1980, I was blessed to hold a little bundle of joy in my arms right after he was born. In the year 2000, I was blessed again when I was able to train and recommend that same young lad for his private pilot’s license when he started his aviation career. Now, here I sit in the front of this airliner with my son, Nathan.
I was able to sit beside him as he started his career, and now we sit side by side as I close out my airline flying career. Bookends of sorts, to a season. We are so blessed GoJet allowed us to do this, and I’m even more blessed that Nathan allowed me to sit in the Captain’s seat for our entire four-day trip. It’s been a real honor. Thank you for joining us.”
The trip meant a lot to Nathan, too. “It was both a positive and emotional experience,” he said. “It didn’t really sink in at first that maybe only one percent of pilots can share such a great memory as this.”
Both men were grateful to GoJet for giving them such a special opportunity. “You’ve given us a memory that will not only never go away, but will never fade,” Bob said. “The are no words capable of expressing the appreciation we have for what you allowed us to do.” Nathan agreed, adding, “I will always be grateful to GoJet for orchestrating this opportunity that will forever hold a special place in my heart.”
Other than flying with his son, Bob says that GoJet’s environment of camaraderie is what he’ll remember the most about his time with the company. “In the early days, GoJet felt like a small family,” he remarked. “As it’s grown, it now feels more like an extended family. The people who I’ve worked and flown with have made my time here really fun, and I will miss it.”
While sentimental about retirement, Bob couldn’t be happier about how his career ended. “I am one of the most blessed people on the planet,” he exclaimed. “There are very few people who can say that they’ve been able to fly a plane with their own son. I put this on the same level as my children’s births, weddings, and graduations – I couldn’t be a prouder father.”
Wondering what there is to do in your new crew base? We’ve got you covered. From ski slopes in Colorado, to nature trails in Raleigh, our crew base cities offer something for everyone. Here’s a sampling of some of the top things to do in each of our domiciles.
St. Louis, Missouri
A sports town to its core, St. Louis is home to both professional baseball (the St. Louis Cardinals) and hockey (the St. Louis Blues). Catch a game at Busch Stadium, or get a bird’s eye view of the action on the field from 360, the rooftop bar and restaurant atop the St. Louis Hilton at the Ballpark. While in St. Louis, a trip to the top of the iconic Gateway Arch is a must, as is a visit to Forest Park, named by Travel + Leisure as “one of America’s coolest city parks and one of the world’s most beautiful city parks.”
Not far from St. Louis is another Midwestern gem, Chicago, Illinois. A sports hub, Chicago is home to two Major League Baseball teams, including the 2016 World Series Champion Chicago Cubs, as well as to NHL, NFL, and NBA franchises.
With over 600 public parks, including local favorites Millennium Park and Grant Park, Chicago boasts plenty of avenues for outdoor recreation and entertainment. If you visit Grant Park between early May and mid-October, be sure to check out the water show at Buckingham Fountain, one of the largest fountains in the world. Evening shows are accompanied by a light and music display.
During your time in Detroit, be sure to pay homage to the Motor City’s stunning achievements in the automotive industry. After you visit the birthplace of the Model T at the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant, watch the manufacturing process of a Ford F-150 truck from the elevated walkway overlooking the Dearborn Truck Plant’s final assembly line.
Just as deeply rooted in Detroit’s history is music. Launched in 1959, the Detroit-based Motown record label represented some of the most famous acts in music, including Marvin Gaye, Chubby Checker and Stevie Wonder. Visit the Motown Museum, and stand in Studio A, where legends including the Supremes and the Temptations recorded some of their best-known hits. Spend some time exploring the District Detroit, 50 blocks of restaurants, bars and event destinations. While you’re in the District, take in a show at one of Detroit’s many theatre venues, including the stunning Fox Theatre, as well as its smaller next door neighbor, City Theatre.
Raleigh offers endless opportunities for lovers of the great outdoors. The area is home to two state parks, including the Falls Lake State Recreation Area and William B. Umstead State Park, and both are both are prime locations for swimming, boating, fishing and hiking. The Neuse River Trail caters to cyclists and hikers, and is the longest greenway trail in North Carolina. Take in the view from its two suspension bridges, and keep an eye out for beavers, cranes, and Great Blue Herons.
Museum buffs, be sure to visit the North Carolina Museum of History. The Wright Brothers’ first flight took place in 1903 in nearby Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and the museum is home to a full-scale replica of the Wright Flyer. The museum is also home to a cannon and other artifacts recovered from a shipwrecked pirate vessel, as well as to “The Story of North Carolina,” a permanent exhibit that traces 14,000 years of North Carolina history. Young and old alike will also love the Museum of Natural Sciences, the Museum of Art, and Marbles Kids Museum.
Raleigh was named one of the top 10 “Tastiest Towns in the South” by Southern Living magazine, and the local restaurant scene lives up to the hype. With over 1,200 local restaurants, and options ranging from sushi to Middle Eastern, there’s sure to be something for everyone. Be sure to try Eastern North Carolina-style barbecue (made with vinegar, salt, and red and black pepper) at one of the city’s many barbeque joints, and check out the diverse flavors of Historic City Market, an eclectic area of restaurants, bars, galleries and boutiques.
Regardless of where you’re based, you’re certain to have a great time exploring your new domicile. Each city is home to unique events and places, just waiting to be discovered.
At some regional airlines, it can take as long as 7 years to upgrade to Captain, even for pilots who are Captain-qualified. And until a regional pilot is a Captain, they can’t start accumulating Pilot in Command, or PIC time.
The Pilot in Command, or PIC, is the crew member ultimately held responsible for the safety of a flight. The number of hours that pilots act in the role of Pilot in Command is called PIC time. The more PIC time that a pilot has, the better their chances of being offered a position with a major carrier.
First Officers facing long upgrade times often find themselves in professional limbo, unable to accumulate the Pilot in Command, time that they need to move on, but understandably hesitant to start over with another regional, as it would require walking away from years of accrued experience.
Fortunately, GoJet’s Direct Entry Captain program provides a welcome solution for pilots caught between a rock and a hard place. This program allows pilots who are Captain-qualified to join GoJet as a Captain, rather than a First Officer, and immediately start earning PIC time. The program, which is the only of its kind in the country, provides relief for pilots who have been flying as First Officers for years with no upgrade in sight.
One such pilot is GoJet Direct Entry Captain Brad Meyer. He flew as a First Officer at another airline for 8 years, before taking a three-year hiatus from the industry. He had no intention of returning to aviation, knowing that he’d have to start over again as a First Officer. However, GoJet’s Direct Entry Captain program changed his mind. “After flying as a First Officer for 8 years, I didn’t want to start over at that level,” he said. “This program allowed me to start flying again, but this time as a Captain.”
Direct Entry Captain Kyle Barrett agrees, remarking, “The Direct Entry Captain program has been perfect for my career.” Kyle, a former regional First Officer, left the regional world several years ago for corporate flying. However, he decided to return to regional flying to gain additional 121 experience that would make him more marketable to a major carrier. Given the depth of his experience, the Direct Entry Captain program made it possible for him to immediately start flying as a Captain, rather than starting over again as a First Officer.
One misconception about the program is that Direct Entry Captains “cut in line” ahead of First Officers already on property, thus increasing the time that it takes for those First Officers to upgrade. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Upgrade time is tied to seniority, and seniority is tied to a pilot’s start date. A First Officer already on property will be higher on the seniority list than a new hire Direct Entry Captain. When a First Officer upgrades, they immediately bypass all Captains junior to them on the seniority list, while a Direct Entry Captain will sit reserve if there are no lines available.
However, Direct Entry Captains get plenty of flying time. Lines open up with attrition, and an average of 15-25 pilots leave GoJet each month to move on to major airlines and legacy carriers. Also, Direct Entry Captains can fly in both seats, which means that a Direct Entry Captain can cover a trip as a First Officer, while still getting paid as a Captain.
In addition to the benefits associated with accumulating PIC time, GoJet offers a host of other advantages that are very attractive to pilots. Direct Entry Captain Robert Brown likes GoJet’s competitive five-year contract, while Direct Entry Captain Zach Moore likes the extra time at home afforded by long-call reserve.
Plus, GoJet’s small pilot group means that management takes a personal interest in each pilot’s success. “I couldn’t believe it when the Director of Flight Ops and the Chief Pilot introduced themselves to my training class and shook everyone’s hand,” Robert Brown recalled.
Direct Entry Captain Jason DuVerny, who left corporate flying to be able to fly a more predictable schedule, has also been impressed with what he’s seen from GoJet’s management, as well as the training program. “My simulator instructor really went out of his way to ensure that I was equipped for line flying,” he remarked. “I feel very fortunate to have received such high-level training in this environment.”
One of the best things about working in the airline industry is the travel benefits. GoJet employees are fortunate to have a wide range of affordable air fare options available to them, ranging from free domestic travel, to heavily discounted international travel. As a result, GoJet employees tend to travel a lot, and their children often develop a love for travel at a young age. When the children of GoJet employees grow into teenagers afflicted by wanderlust, they can spend up to two weeks in another country as part of a special program for airline families called the International Youth Exchange.
The International Youth Exchange pairs up teens from airline families in different countries and gives them each the opportunity to spend two weeks with the family they are matched with. After a participant spends two weeks with a host family, they return home, and the teen they were matched with stays with them for two weeks.
Participants are matched based on similarities in age, gender, and interests, as well as where they would like to visit. Available locations include the United States, Europe, Canada, and Australia. After the teens are matched and dates are decided, the participants communicate with one another so that they can get to know each other, as well as decide what activities they would like to do during their summer exchange.
The International Youth Exchange is the brainchild of Camille Wheeler, a retired Northwest Airlines employee, and the mother of Aaron Wheeler, a regional airline Captain. Camille is the mother of four, and international travel for a family of six can be expensive, even with pass benefits. On the International Youth Exchange website, Camille explains that the program was born from her desire for her children to be able to affordably travel abroad, learn different languages, and experience new cultures. Aaron says that his mom first got the idea for the program when his family took a trip to France when he was younger. She was looking for different options to avoid hotel costs, and began making connections with other airline families abroad.
Camille soon realized that there were other airline families all over the world who were interested in affordable international travel opportunities for their children. The program slowly began to take shape. Teens could fly overseas using their parents’ pass privileges, and stay for free for two weeks with an airline host family. Then the teens would switch, and a teen from host family could visit the other teen’s home during a separate two week visit.
In 1994, Camille connected with a Swiss Air gate agent in Geneva, Switzerland, and young Aaron became the first participant in the International Youth Exchange program. He was matched with a Swiss teen, Greg Cunnet, who was around the same age, and shared his interests. “When Greg came to visit, we just hung out, played baseball and biked,” Aaron recalls. When Aaron and Greg first met, Greg was only beginning to learn English. “Since he grew up traveling in airplanes, he would always read the safety instructions. In fact, the first time that we met, all he could say in English was, ‘Fast-ten-seat-belt.'”
After Greg stayed with his family, Aaron visited Geneva and stayed with Greg’s family. Aaron recalls mostly doing things that were familiar to him from back home.
“We went swimming, biked around town, and even played Monopoly.Even a young age, I was struck by how we had more in common than not, even though we lived so far apart.”
Aaron and Greg continued to visit each other for 7 years through the program, and are still friends. “We still visit each other when we can,” Aaron said. “I even went to his wedding about a year and a half ago.”
The International Youth Exchange has come a long way from its one inaugural participant in 1994. It has since placed over 6,000 students in exchanges. “In 1994,” jokes Aaron, “we just had a single fax machine running twenty-four-seven. We would get applications from Europe in the middle of the night! But now, applicants can apply online.”
Aaron continues to help his mother with the program, who is now devoted to it full-time. “I actually matched a young boy from Minneapolis,” recalls Aaron, “and his mom happened to be my gate agent for a while. Every couple of months, we would bump into each other, and she would say how much her son enjoyed the experience.” He recounts another story from years ago, in which a young person was matched up with a family in Seattle. The father of the family flew for an airline in the area. The program participant loved Seattle so much, that years later, he got in touch with the father and ended up working for that same airline.
Aaron’s experiences with the International Youth Exchange have stayed with him through the years, and he encourages other airline families to take advantage of the opportunities for travel and friendship that the program offers.
“I truly believe that there is no better way to experience another country than with someone your own age,” he says.
The International Youth Exchange is currently accepting applications for summer 2017 exchanges. Put those travel benefits to work, and give your teenager a summer they’ll never forget. Download the program flyer here or visit the International Youth Exchange website to learn more and apply online.