When leaving the military, it’s common for Veterans to look for careers in the civilian world that will allow them to utilize the training they received in the armed forces. For example, military pilots and aircraft mechanics often put their skills to work in the airline industry when their active duty responsibilities are complete.
Marine Corps Veteran and GoJet Director of Maintenance did just that. Prior to his airline career, Jeff spent five years as an Avionics Technician in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he ensured that Maine Corps aircraft, including AV-8B Harrier jets, were mission capable.
When Jeff left active duty, he found that his avionics skills were very marketable in the civilian world. He was recruited by a St. Louis-based regional airline, where he went on to spend over 15 years holding progressively responsible Tech Ops positions before joining GoJet as its new Director of Maintenance in early 2017.
With the exception of combat situations, Jeff says that the major difference between military and commercial aviation is the activity level of the aircraft that technicians work on. “If you’re an Avionics Technician stationed at a military base, you’re primarily going to work on a fleet that’s grounded, but still needs to be ready to go at a moment’s notice,” he said. “But an airline is a business, and every decision you make is hyper-focused on keeping aircraft in the air.”
Despite having an office at GoJet’s corporate headquarters, Jeff always looks for opportunities to get his hands dirty at the maintenance hangar. “Who likes sitting in an office all day?” he laughed. “Plus, getting in the trenches gives me the opportunity to interact with our front line mechanics.”
Even though his active duty days are behind him, Jeff says that the camaraderie he has with his co-workers at GoJet reminds him of the relationships he had with his fellow soldiers in the Marines.
“I found a good group of people in the military,” Jeff recalls, “and it was the same when I joined GoJet. I love working with the people in this company, just like I loved working with the people in my squadron.”
GoJet Airlines is a proud supporter of our men and women in uniform. We value military leadership, and are proud that many Veterans like Jeff have chosen GoJet for their civilian careers.
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.”
Detroit Maintenance Manager Rio Publico and Detroit Lead Stores Clerk Ann Jones have worked together since 2011, and have always had a good rapport, both in and out of the office. Last fall, the two were attending a group training session at GoJet’s corporate headquarters in St. Louis, when the unthinkable happened. While on a break, Ann and Rio were walking to a local grocery store, when Rio went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing.
“I don’t remember this,” Rio says, “but Ann told me that I stopped, told her to hold on, and then I collapsed.” Ann called 911, and the dispatcher told Ann that she would have to restart Rio’s heart while paramedics were en route. “As soon as he said that, I started freaking out,” Ann remembers. “Because it hadn’t dawned on me until that point that there was a possibility that he could die. I’d received CPR training in the past, but had never had to use it.”
The dispatcher walked Ann through what to do, and Rio took a deep breath just before paramedics arrived. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he regained consciousness over an hour later. When he woke up, Ann was the first person that he asked for.
While Rio was in the hospital, Ann personally called Rio’s wife, Donna, to let her know what had happened. “I know how unnerving it is to receive an unexpected phone call from a hospital,” Ann said. “I wanted her to hear the news from a friendly voice.” Ann looked after Rio during his recovery, and still keeps an eye on his health. “I made sure that he only ate healthy foods, and I still do to this day. Donna only sends him healthy food for lunch, and I make sure that he eats it all.”
Both Rio and Donna consider Ann to be his guardian angel. Incredibly, Rio’s heart attack in St. Louis was not the first time that Ann has saved his life. A few years ago, Ann had to call 911 when Rio had a stroke at work. “We were laughing and talking with our boss in the room,” Ann recalls, “when suddenly, Rio told me to call 911. At first, I thought that he was joking. Then he yelled at me to call, because he couldn’t feel his arm.”
“I started stuttering, my side started tingling, and my speech was slurring,” Rio adds. “If Ann hadn’t been there both times, I may have sustained permanent, physical damage, or not even be alive today. She has been a real saving grace.”
Ann jokes that she is not ready for Rio to experience another medical emergency any time soon. “Both of these situations were very scary – I could use a break,” she laughs.
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.
It’s not every day that we get to host a mid-air wedding. But on January 31, we got to do just that. Two of our passengers, Ken and Tracy Nilsen, got married in the air on a flight between Cincinnati and Washington D.C. Avid travelers, the Cincinnati-based couple wanted their wedding to reflect their wanderlust and spirit of adventure, and a mid-air wedding fit the bill.
“We’ve done a lot of traveling,” Tracy explained, “It’s a big, important aspect of our relationship. We tossed around a lot of travel-related wedding ideas, like a destination wedding, or having our reception in a hanger. But the only thing that seemed right was for us to actually get married on a plane.” “A mid-air wedding just seemed like us,” added Ken.
Ken is a loyal Delta frequent flyer, for whom travel is an “obsession.” When he and Tracy started getting serious, Ken was reminded of a quote he’d heard once.
“If you want to know if you’re right for each other, go somewhere that’s hard to get in and out of. If you can survive that travel experience, then you should marry her in the airport on your way back.”
Ken took the quote’s advice and booked their first trip as a couple to Cape Town, South Africa. The journey took them 30 hours, including a five hour layover in Amsterdam. “We found that the flight experiences were just as much fun for us as the destination,” Ken remembers. “That’s when we knew that we were right for each other.”
Since then, Ken and Tracy have done a lot of traveling, both domestically and internationally, including a trip to Paris, where Ken asked Tracy to marry him. “The Paris trip had a bit of a Delta theme,” Ken elaborates. “I wanted to book a flight that would qualify me for Diamond Medallion status. All that I needed was a trip to Reno, but I wanted to go somewhere special, given what I had planned.” In addition to earning Diamond Medallion status, the Paris trip provided a perfect backdrop for Ken’s proposal to Tracy at a Parisian cafe with a view of the Eiffel Tower in the background. “I was getting nervous that the only reason for the trip was Ken’s Diamond status,” Tracy laughs, “but it ended with another kind of diamond!”
Once the couple decided to get married on a plane, everything fell into place. They booked a Delta flight from Cincinnati to Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Washington D.C. for themselves and a 13 friends and family members, including a friend who would officiate, as well as a photographer and a DJ. After getting married in the air, the wedding party would enjoy an afternoon at the DCA Sky Club before heading back to Cincinnati.
With only 15 people in their wedding party, there would be up to 54 unknowing passengers on the flight, which was a Delta Connection flight operated by GoJet Airlines. “We had our wedding programs printed on barf bags, so that the other passengers would know what they were getting into,” says Tracy. “We also distributed little airplane cards offering everyone in the plane a complimentary drink on us.”
The wedding went off without a hitch, with the officiant performing the quick ceremony just after the seatbelt sign went off. The moment that the officiant proclaimed Ken and Tracy man and wife, a flight attendant called the flight deck, and the pilots provided Ken and Tracy with the coordinates for exactly where they were when they were married. Since you can’t have a wedding without music, the DJ set the tone by playing “Come Fly With Me” by Frank Sinatra and “Roam” by the B-52s on his laptop. Delta had stocked the plane with champagne, which was served as soon as the ceremony ended.
GoJet flight attendant Sian Montgomery was thrilled to be a part of Ken and Tracy’s big day. “It was a beautiful event to witness, and it was wonderful to help make our passengers’ dreams come true. It was a magical day, and I was blessed to be part of it. Another great flight attendant moment to stow away in my memory box”
When the couple arrived at DCA, they discovered that Delta had pulled out all the stops. An archway and white carpet strewn with rose petals awaited them in the gate area, along with rows of cheering passengers and Delta employees.
There was no mistaking the newlyweds as they made their way to the Sky Club!
When they arrived at the Sky Club, they discovered that Delta had arranged a beautiful lunch, including a gorgeous cake with a keepsake aircraft model.
After an afternoon at the Sky Club, Ken and Tracy returned to Cincinnati via another Delta Connection flight operated by GoJet. But with as much as these two travel, we have a feeling that we’ll be seeing them again soon. Here’s to a lifetime of new adventures!