Perspectives: Sean Meehan, Express Jet
Written by Sean Meehan   

My name is Sean Meehan and I am a Newark based first officer with Express Jet airlines, also known as Continental Express. I have been enamored by aircraft ever since I was a small kid, and could be found sitting in the polo fields across the street from my house and watching army helicopters land. I grew up with a real interest in flying as a career but always thought the military or an expensive academy style program was the only way to a career on the flight deck. I attended Virginia Tech and majored in communication studies. I thought I wanted to do Public relations or journalism work, although I really had no idea what I wanted. It wasn’t until my junior year in college when a friend of mine got his private pilot certificate at a local airport that it occurred to me that I could do it too. A few weeks, while riding on a delta flight from Roanoke to Laquardia, I saw an ad in the Delta magazine for Comair academy. That got me thinking that maybe it was possible to engineer a career at the airlines.

When I got back home I started researching every major “fast track” program and FBO out there. I looked at FBO’s at the local airports, as well as major academy type programs such as those offered by Comair and ATP. I decided the best option for me was to work my full time job and start slowly with my flight training as I could afford it. May 6 2002 I took my first adventure flight in a cessna 172. It was an old airplane, and didn’t look so great but it flew well and it ultimately served me during my private pilot checkride.

I kept working full time at a local company in the marketing department, using my degree for what it was worth. Instrument, commercial and CFI were soon to follow. I did about a rating per year, and tried to pay cash for as much as I could. I ended up financing a small portion of my commercial and instrument, but for the most part I paid cash. I figured it was better to finance that portion so that I could keep the pace and the learning up. I also picked up a second job at a restaurant to finance the training, so that I could continue to save in anticipation for the dreaded first year pay.

I worked from 2003-2006 at a mortgage company in the DC area. When rates were low and business was good everyone was happy. But when the market changed and the layoffs started happening I knew the writing was on the wall. I decided it was time to make the jump. I began flight instructing at the same place that I got my ratings at. Not only did networking pay off, but I was able to pay it forward to other students in my shoes. It was a rewarding experience working with primary students, but I knew I needed a CFII rating, and I knew I needed multi time. I decided the best thing for me would be to go to a flight school in Florida for 3 weeks, build my 100 hours of twin time and get my CFII and MEI. I spent 3 weeks flying around Florida in a twin doing cross country flights in IFR weather, at night, and in a crew environment. It was a great experience that really taught me a lot. I went back to the DC area and started up teaching again hardcore. I was fortunate enough to immediately have a full schedule, work for a great boss, and fly in some challenging airspace every day. By September I had my 1000 hours and started applying to every regional out there.

After Christmas 2006, I traveled to Houston for my interview with Express Jet. I was offered a January class date in the Embraer 145 regional jet. I showed up eager and ready to learn. I studied alot, and got to know my classmates well. We all proved invaluable to each other for study groups and moral support. The secret to getting through 121 style training is to study hard and pay attention in class, but to also find time to relax and get away from the stress. Seven weeks in Houston and I am now a first officer on a 50 seat 40000 lb jet.

My advice to anyone considering a career in aviation is to figure out what works best for you. Do research on the training options out there. Learn as much as you can about training and the industry from those who have been there. Be cautious of places that advertise “zero to hero” programs, or try to woo you with guaranteed jobs. Often times they are more money than they are worth. There are some really good fast track programs, but there are also equally as good self paced FBO style programs at a fraction of the cost. It all depends on what style of learning you prefer, and where you are in your life. For me the path I took worked well, but it is different for everyone. Also, network, network, network. The networking I did netted me a CFI job and a great schedule. When you meet the minimums, apply where you want to work, and if there is somewhere that you really want to be, try to hold out for it. It is worth it.

I am a 32 year old career changer, and wrote this to show those out there that it can be done. It takes planning, patience, hard work, and a constant eye on the goal. At times it will seem unreachable, but if you keep up the pressure and stick to the plan it is indeed possible. Good luck.