Job: Flight instructor in Leesville, La.
Salary: $22 an hour, but only when I'm flying. I'm basically an independent contractor. I usually make around $1,500 to $2,000 a month. My job is to teach people how to fly: I don't really call that work. I'm making more now than I was landscaping last summer, and I actually like what I'm doing!
Education and flying background: I remember when I was young I would watch planes at the airport. I asked my mom and dad if I could start taking flying lessons in sixth grade, and it just took off from there. I started getting more serious in high school. When I turned 18 I got my pilot's license. I wanted to get a degree before I started to do my pilot stuff, so I went to Colorado Mountain College and got my associate arts degree. Then I came back to the Twin Cities and continued my education in flying with more flying certificates and ratings.
How did you get your current job? I got my job through the Internet: on a website where you pay them to advertise your résumé [findapilot.com]. Just when I was starting to get restless, my current boss gave me a call and said, "You have a nice looking résumé." We talked for a while, and he offered me the job down here in Louisiana. I've been here since October.
Who are your students? My youngest is an 18-year-old and my oldest are in their 40s. There's a big Army base nearby and a lot of Army guys like to get their pilot's license. After they've served overseas, they come back here and can use money from the government for education, so I have about 15 students who did it that way.
What's the best part of your job? Giving people the chance to fly. Just a select number of people get to leave the ground every day, and I'm one of the few, along with the students.
Do students ever get nervous in the air? Not really, because my students know that I'm a licensed pilot, and they're at my controls if something ever goes wrong. Safety is the first priority. I have to be on my toes and make sure students always ask before pushing a button. They start to get comfortable with the airplane. It's definitely a feeling thing.
What's the hardest part of the job? Knowing everything. I'm a certified flight instructor, and students even stump me with questions sometimes. I have to know where to find the answer if I don't know it. I also have to know how to be a good teacher. That was one of the hardest things, because pilots don't go to school for teaching.
In 10 years I'll be... I really would like to be a corporate pilot. They have the nicest jets. Probably the next step is to get on with a regional airline and build experience.
Advice for job seekers? You are your own salesman. I had my résumé out there, I probably called 100 different flight schools all over the country, asking them if they were hiring, or will be hiring in a month. Then I finally put it on a website and got a job.
Do you miss Minnesota? I definitely miss the cold weather, being Minnesotan. But they have good food down here ... and good flying weather. And I've met a couple friends down here at the airport. It's nice: there's lots of pine trees and everything is getting green already.