Perspectives: Denny Jorgensen, Pinnacle Airilnes
Written by Denny Jorgensen   
When I thought about writing this profile, it was hard to think where I should start. I overall consider myself very lucky and blessed with the way things have gone in my career-- and life in general--thus far. I was born and lived the first 19 years of my life in the Atlanta, Georgia area. My dad was a captain and check airmen for Republic Airlines on the DC-9, which later merged with Northwest Airlines when I was 5 years old. He was also in the Air Force Reserve at Dobbins AFB on the C-130. Some of my earliest memories are flying around on Republic DC-9’s and being in the simulator with my dad as he was giving check rides and lessons to fellow pilots. This obviously was a great influence on my growing up, and as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a pilot. I always figured that I would go into the Air Force and then continue to the airlines after my years of active duty were up- while staying with the reserves- just like my dad. When I was in 2nd grade, it became apparent that I did not have terrific eyesight- which continued to worsen as I grew older. My parents chose not to tell me at the time, but this pretty much counted out going into the armed forces in a pilot capacity. My love for aviation continued, however.

Through the years of elementary, middle, and my first two years of high school, I became a bit more focused on the possibility of being a doctor- though something just was not very satisfying about the idea. I pretty much wanted to make enough money so I could afford to own my own airplane if a non-flying career was going to be my path.

A key moment in my aviation career was my dad offering to pay for an intro flight in the summer of 1998, and if I liked it, my private pilot’s license. He reinforced that this did not mean I had to choose an aviation career… just he felt that it would be a good thing to offer me the opportunity of learning to fly. We went to a school at the Lawrenceville airport in Atlanta (Advanced Aviation at LZU), and it was love from my first flight onwards. I soloed in a Cessna 152 with just over 8 hours of flying time, and continued to fly on the weekends as school and football season progressed through my senior year. I graduated high school in June of 1999, and got my private license July of 1999.

Time for college. I had narrowed my choices down to Auburn University and doing their Aviation Management program, or going to Florida State University in Tallahassee and getting a different degree while flying at a part 61 school. I found a fantastic flight school in Tallahassee, called Flightline Group, which would offer me an instructing opportunity down the road and had a Part 91 charter department. The decision was pretty easy, as I was wary about getting an aviation degree in the first place. I planned on being an instructor by my junior year and hopefully graduating with enough flying time to get hired with a regional airline.

I started college August of 1999 and also began work on my instrument rating at Flightline in PA-28 Archer II’s. I began college as a Physics major, though it was likely to take 5 years to graduate if I pursued that degree. I finished my freshman year with just my check ride left on my instrument rating and proceeded back home to Atlanta for summer of 2000.

I completed my instrument rating May of 2000 at Advanced Aviation, and promptly began work on my private multi-engine rating. The multi-engine training made me fall completely in love with flying. I loved the larger and faster aircraft- the more complex it got the more I enjoyed it. I finished my private multi-engine rating in a PA-44T Turbo Seminole the first part of June (had a real engine failure on my check ride!). I had planned on completing my Commercial single and multi-engine licenses that summer, and did so by flying over 150 hours from May-August of 2000. Through my sophomore year in college, I began some work on my flight instructor certificates and got all of my written exams out of the way, though school work was increasingly difficult. Late my sophomore year, I decided on changing my major to Philosophy to ensure graduating in four years, and pursued a minor in Geological Science.

Summer of 2001, I completed my CFI, CFII, and MEI ratings all in the period of about a month. In addition, my dad was able to get me into the DC-10 simulators at Northwest and taught me a great deal in a short amount of time on jet and multi-crewmember operations. This experience greatly changed the way I viewed operating an aircraft.

Then came my junior year of College. I had been talking with the management at Flightline about getting a job as an instructor ever since the first day I walked in the doors. Due to my persistence and good record at the school, they offered me a job immediately when I got my flight instructor certificates. I was due to start work September 11, 2001. Needless to say, my first day at work did not go as planned. To my good fortune an instructor had recently quit, and they assigned me all of his students. My flying time built up rapidly (about 50 hours a month), and I began flying right seat on some of the charters in Saratogas, Navajos, and King Airs… all while balancing a full load of classes.

By spring of my senior year, I had accumulated over 1200 hours of flying time, though was a tad short on multi-engine time (170 hours). Flightline was using me quite a bit as “captain” on the Saratoga and I rode on every King Air trip that I could fit in my schedule (it was the only multi-engine aircraft at the company). I accomplished my ATP written exam in January and began sending out resumes to airlines. My primary choice was Pinnacle Airlines (Northwest Airlink), as I knew a few people from there, and they were growing so rapidly. Unfortunately, they required 1500 total time and 300 multi-engine. In order to expedite things, a friend and I found a low cost Seminole in another city and split the flying time. This way he could build his hours for down the road (he had just gotten his commercial multi-engine) and I could acquire the hours needed to get hired with Pinnacle. I graduated from Florida State May 3, 2003 and really set my sights on getting hired with an airline. Pinnacle unfortunately had stopped hiring for a few months, so I sent resumes out to most any jet operating company that seemed to have some sort of stability and advancement opportunities (I was keeping in mind that my next step is with a major airline, which necessitates turbine PIC flying time for qualification). Things were looking pretty bleak that summer at getting hired anywhere. It seemed that I would get a lead, and just as quickly that company would stop hiring. In late August of 2003, things began opening up again. I had 1700 hours and 300+ multi-engine and went to ground school in St. Petersburg, FL to fly the Piaggio Avanti for a company called Avantair. After I went to class, I had to wait on being called to start flying, so I continued working at Flightline. No more than a couple weeks after I finished Avantair ground school, I got a call for an interview with Pinnacle for September 24th. I went to the interview and was offered the job the same day. Nothing can describe how happy I was. I began class November 3rd, 2003 and had my checkride in the CRJ January 4, 2004. Progression has been very fast.

My seniority was able to hold a Captain slot in October of 2004, though I did not have the minimum 3000 hours of flight time and 1500 hours of multi-engine time to put in for the bid. I flew 10 hours shy of 1000 flight hours from January to December in 2004 (maximum legal is 1000 in a calendar year) Due to smart bidding, I flew over 1100 hours in the 12 month span from February 2004 to February 2005. I had the flying time to become a captain in late Jan 2005 and put in immediately for the captain bid. I was in class on February 28th and took my ATP checkride/CRJ type-ride on March 29th. My FAA line check to finish initial operating experience in the left seat was completed on April 12th of this year. The feeling on the deadhead home from that flight was indescribable. Upgrade class was quick with only 2 weeks of class and 5 sims, but actually quite enjoyable. I came into the class completely prepared and studied and breezed through with minimal stress. As of September 2005, I have over 400 hours as Captain in the CRJ. Being in the left seat is a challenge and quite different from being an FO, but is very well worth it. It really feels like flying again being the one to make the decisions, and I am very happy to be the one making the decisions again. I must say that I look forward to starting each trip. There is still the aura of flying from when I first took my discovery flight. The great thing about flying is that there is always the excitement of starting a trip and going flying, but an equal excitement of finishing a trip and going home to have a few days off to do whatever I want.

I am currently working toward the magic 1000 hours of jet PIC time which is the standard minimum hiring requirement for “major” carriers. My primary goal that I am shooting for is to be hired by FedEx or UPS by the end of next year. I am doing everything that I can to get my foot in the door and hopefully get an interview at one or both of those places.

What’s the moral of the story? As has been shown on through many of the other stories on this site, networking and making as much use of the resources available are so key in being successful in getting a job, especially in aviation. From the beginning, I set forth with a “building block” idea of reaching my ultimate goal (a major carrier) and each step with a time frame that I had to accomplish to get to that goal. I met as many people as I could along the way, and pushed myself as hard as possible to get there in the most expeditious manner that I could muster. This effort still continues in trying to open doors to advance to the next level. Even the worst days at my job, I still love flying and have never looked back and thought that I should have made a different career choice. Good luck to everyone- I have been helped and blessed by many along the way, and would love to do the same for anyone asking. Feel free to contact me at anytime and I’ll do anything in my power to provide assistance and advice.