Perspectives: R. John Klimut, Skywest
Written by R. John Klimut   
I was perfectly happy as a reporter.

I was moving along in my degree towards Mass Communication, Print Journalism just fine. I worked my way up from a news stringer (part-time reporter) to reporter to Assistant News Editor to Editor-in-Chief of my university’s student paper. After my run at the student paper I worked for a 50,000-circulation daily in the ad-building and pagination department and finally I started my own newspaper.

Then I took a discovery flight.

See, my father flew for Ozark Airlines for 28 years. My mother also worked for "Krazo" as a flight attendant for 12 years. I grew up around airlines and flying. It was just part of who I was but never once was I ever pushed into flying by either of my parents. For some reason I just never really considered flying as a career. A few times I entertained the idea of getting my Private Pilot’s Certificate but never really followed through on it. Life was taking me down a different path it seemed.

But in the midst of my journey through the beginning stages of a journalism career my younger brother decided he wanted to fly for a living. So, he started taking aviation classes at a local community college and then he decided to move to Phoenix, AZ to really commit to this idea.

That’s when it struck me that if he could do it, so could I. Which leads us back to the aforementioned discovery flight.

I took my first flight as a "flying pilot" in March of 2001. I was hooked. I enrolled in the Private Pilot course at Langa Air Academy in Bethalto, IL and by Aug. 27, 2001 I had earned my Private Pilot Certificate and four days later I was moving to Phoenix, AZ myself. I had 35.1 hours at this point.

On Oct. 11, 2001 I joined a little Web site called Jetcareers.com. It was here I met people I still know today and who have all helped me along this path whether they realized or intended to. It was nice to be able to read and interact with people from all stages of their piloting career. This is a shameless plug, by the way.

Back to the story, my brother had moved to Phoenix to attend Westwind School of Aeronautics. After $12,000 and 75 hours just to earn his private my father, my brother and I decided to buy our own aircraft. We ended up purchasing a 1961 Piper Apache.

This invariably brings up one of the first truisms of aviation. People will tell you the Apache is a dog of an airplane. People will spend hours ragging on the aircraft and telling you everything wrong with it. When you meet one of these people – and you can insert any aircraft in the Apache’s place – ask them one and only one question; how much time do you have in it? The answer will be, 99-percent of the time, "Oh, I’ve never flown it." At that point just smile and walk away.

Anyway, I got my MEL Private add on at 42 some odd hours total time and finished all of my training in this aircraft. Meaning I earned my Instrument Rating, my Commercial and my initial instructor rating in the Apache. I then had to "go back" and rent a single to add-on my Single Engine Commercial and Instructor certificates. I never did get around to getting my Instrument Instructor Certificate.

This brings us to roughly August of 2004 and a total time of roughly 500 hours 95-percent of which was multi time.

On August 23, 2004 I started working as a flight instructor for the school where we had the Apache maintained and where we got our instructor(s), Falcon Executive Aviation at Falcon Field in Mesa, AZ. I instructed for 13 months and about 400 hours of dual given. I learned a lot and some of my closest friends to this day were the other instructors I worked with.

Then in May of 2005 I interviewed for a First Officer’s position with Scenic Airlines in Las Vegas, NV. Scenic flies people to various points around the Grand Canyon and other scenic spots in the southwest under a 121 Operating certificate. I succesfully passed the interview and waited for a class date for nearly five months. While I waited I was instructing. I interviewed at Scenic with roughly 850 hours total time.

In mid September of 2005 I got the call to report for class starting Sept. 27 by this point I was at exactly 1,000 hours total time and 500 some odd hours of multi time. If you’re keeping track of the dates it was exactly four years and one month from the day I earned my private to the day I started as a First Officer with Scenic.

By Jan. 25, 2006, I had completed ground, sim, flight training and IOE and was flying the line at my first "airline." I was on the tour side of the operation so I was flying the DHC-6-300 "Twin Otter." Scenic was a great place to get my feet wet in turbine aircraft ops, crew ops, 121 ops and flying a line for a living. Instructing does a great deal to prepare you for flying for a living but it is much different from flying a line.

Everything was fine at Scenic, I was home every night and looking forward to upgrading later that summer. Then things started going wrong. The company decided to drop it’s entire Becch 1900 fleet (which was running straight, scheduled airline ops and which I had hoped to transition to) and it announced it was moving the tour operation to an uncontrolled airport. I saw the writing on the wall and decided to start exploring other opportunities.

At this point I was sitting at about 1,300 hours total time and about 850 hours of multi time, with several hundred hours of turbine and 121 time mixed in there as well. So I sent out my resume to my top three choices of regional airlines - Air Wisconsin, ExpressJet and SkyWest.

On June 3, 2006 I received an e-mail from SkyWest Airlines inviting me to an interview. I went and the day after at 8 a.m. I received a call congratulating me on passing and inviting me to a July 10 ground school for the EMB-120 Brasillia. Which brings us to where the story leaves off, for now.

I’ve just passed my ground school, my FTD/sim and flight checks and I’m waiting to start IOE. I was very lucky in my with SkyWest as they are currently hiring like crazy and as it stands I already have nearly 200 pilots underneath me in seniority and there is no end in sight for the hiring.