Perspectives: Jonathon Diaz, Air Wisconsin
Written by Jonathon Diaz   
My name is Jonathon Diaz and I am a first officer for Air Wisconsin. Ever since I can remember I wanted to follow in my father's footsteps and become an airline pilot. He flew for the national airline of the Domincan Republic Dominicana Airlines, flying 727's and 747's, and later on with United Airlines. My ambitions became a reality when one day a guidance counselor during my senior year in high school informed me there was a scholarship available that would fund two-thirds of the private pilot certificate at my local airport. I eagerly applied and was one of the three winners awarded the two thousand dollars. It took me a long time to complete my private pilot license because I was going to school full time and working a part-time job.

Eventually, about a year and a half later I had my private in hand. The same time I finished my training the flight school I had been attending closed down. I was forced to find another flight school farther away at a very busy general aviation airport, Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport. I went on to get my instrument, multi-engine, and commercial license at the largest flight school on the field. I trained in Piper Warriors, a Piper Duchess for the multi-engine rating, and a Piper Arrow for the commercial license. So there I was January of 2001 with all my licenses and just over 300 hours. Now the question was, how do I build flight time? For a while I was renting out airplanes and flying cross country flights with my dad to just about every general aviation airport in Florida. After a while that got quite costly and I was unable to dish out a couple hundred dollars a flight.

As I was preparing myself to become a flight instructor, with one last effort, I went to an FBO(fixed base operator) at KFXE and inquired if anyone was hiring on the field. One of the line techs said "try so and so, they've been hiring low time first officers." I had nothing to lose. One morning I bought a white pilot shirt, black slacks, black tie, and polished up my shoes and my resume and asked for the chief pilot at this company that flew 402's, Navajos, Caravans, and Metroliners to the Bahamas. After waiting about an hour for him to see me he asked a few questions and reviewed my resume. He said I was too "low time" and he could not use me at the time. I thanked him and asked if I could help out in any other way I would gladly do it.

A few weeks later I found myself fueling, cleaning airplanes, hangars, filing flight plans, answering phones and just about everything I could to get my foot in the door. I knew if I showed the company what a hard worker I was and how dedicated I was to being a part of their team even if it wasn't as a pilot initially, maybe I would eventually get a shot. Four grueling months went by and the chief pilot gave me the news I had been waiting for. Two of his Metroliner first officers had just put in their two weeks notice. "Jonathon, I want you to train in the Metroliner. I've seen all the hard work you've been doing around here and I appreciate it. Here is the book for the Metroliner. In two weeks I want you to be ready for an oral exam on limitations, systems, and emergency procedures. Next thing I knew I had my checkride in the Fairchild Metroliner, a twin engine turboprop in September 2002.

For two years I built up over 1600 hours with the majority right seat in the Metro and about 400 hours PIC in the Cessna Caravan, which is also a turbine powered airplane. My goal had always been to fly the "heavies" for a major airline. With this in mind, in June 2004 I sent out about five resumes to various regional airlines.

Exactly one week later Air Wisconsin (at the time United Express) wanted to interview me. I was successful and was hired as a first officer on the Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ200) based in Washington Dulles. In September of 2005 we became a USAirways Express carrier and I was displaced to Philadelphia, then chose Norfolk, DCA and currently back in Philadelphia. Captain upgrade hopefully won't be too much longer and I can start accumulating the 1000 hours PIC turbine that the majors are looking for.

In summation, I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for various people who helped me out along the way: My parents for the financial support and motivation, the guidance counselor who suggested the aviation scholarship, and the chief pilot of the 135 operation that hired me and gave a "low time" pilot his dream shot.

My advice to an aspiring pilot is to keep knocking on those doors, don't take no for an answer, and always maintain a positive attitude. Attitude equals altitude. Also, this industry is a small one. You never know who you fly with that one day can help you out or vice versa. Always be professional and courteous.

Fly safe,
Jonathon Diaz
Air Wisconsin F/O