|Perspectives: Steven Warmath, Pinnacle Airlines|
|Written by Steven Warmath|
Hello, everyone. My name is Steven Warmath, and I'm a First Officer with Pinnacle Airlines on the CRJ-200. Pinnacle operates as a regional partner for Northwest Airlines and has bases in Memphis, TN, Minneapolis, MN and Detroit, MI. From the time I was three years old until I was about twelve, my father and I used to park next to the fence at the Memphis International Airport to watch airplanes takeoff and land. We always had a scanner with us so we could listen to the tower and the planes. I believe my interest in flying for the airlines started then.
I was interested in aviation all the way though high school, but I thought the only way to break into the field was to enter the military. I did not meet the vision requirements, so I wrote off that dream. In the meantime, I attended college at Mississippi State and eventually found myself in Orlando, FL working for theme parks. After deciding that a career in theme park management was not what I wanted, I started doing research into being an airline pilot. Without knowing it, I had moved to one of the hot beds of aviation training. There WERE other ways to get to the airlines than the military, I just didn't find them until several years after graduating high school. I checked out several flight schools including Delta Connection Academy, the now defunct Airline Training Academy and Flight Safety. I eventually decided to do my training at a local flight school called Air Orlando, where I could keep my training costs to a minimum.
About a year after starting my training, I left the theme park business altogether. I decided that I wanted to get as much exposure as I could to the operating practices at an airline. After talking to a friend of mine, I decided to apply for a ramp position with Southwest Airlines, and I was hired about a week later. I feel the experience with Southwest not only gave me a view of how the rampers see airline operations, it opened a networking door for a future, potential pilot position with the airline.
Soon after I completed training for my private license and instrument rating. Roughly three weeks after beginning training on my multi-engine commercial rating, Air Orlando was devestated by Hurricane Charley. The multi-engine aircraft I had been flying was a total loss. I decided to move back home to Memphis, TN to re-group. One of the choices I had to make was did I want to re-evaluate and train at an academy or continue the FBO route. The same friend that worked with me at the theme parks and Southwest had attended Mesa Airlines Pilot Development, so I was considering that school. Several factors led to my decision not to. The cost of the PACE program there would have been roughly 50% more than acquiring my flight instructor ratings, my immediate future would be tied one specific regional (Mesa Airlines) and if things did not work out either with the school or the airline, I would have very few options. After doing some more research (much of it here on Jetcareers.com), I decided to fly down to Arlington, TX with another Jetcareers member and investigate Skymates. Both of us came away impressed with the operation and began training at Skymates that summer.
Once I got to Arlington, my training was on a fast track. I quickly finished my multi-engine and single engine commercial ratings and started my flight instructor training days later. After about a month, I had all three of my flight instructor ratings and a job offer to stay at Skymates and instruct. I was very happy to accept the offer as I felt they had an excellent training environment as well as a large opportunity for multi-engine instruction. I had a very good instructing career at Skymates lasting about 7 months. In that time I was able to build my total time to nearly 950 and acquire nearly 250 hours in multi-engine aircraft. I learned a great deal more than I ever thought I would as an instructor and if given the choice, I would take the same path again. While working on my ratings and instructing, I continued working on my bachelor degree via on-line courses with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. I should be finished with a degree in Professional Aeronautics with a minor in management by the end of this year.
I began sending resumes out in November of 2005 when I had about 700 total time and 200 multi-engine. It was very frustrating at first since I knew some people at some bridge programs were getting hired with less time than I had. Eventually, the determination paid off, and I recieved interview offers with not one, but two regional airlines. While studying for the interview at ExpressJet, I recieved the interview offer at Pinnacle. I went to the Pinnacle interview with the mindset that I would use it for experience for the ExpressJet interview, and if a job offer arose, I would cross that bridge when I came to it. I left the Pinnacle interview thinking that I didn't do very well. It would be nice to be based in my hometown without having to commute, but at least I still had the ExpressJet interview in the near future.
I had just landed in El Paso, TX in a student's Bonanza when I noticed I had a voicemail message on my cell phone. It was a job offer from Pinnacle with a class date a week later. I was shocked. I immediately called Skymates to let everyone there know the good news as well as my family. Of course, I also called Pinnacle back to accept the job offer. Once I got back to Arlington, I sent an e-mail to ExpressJet saying that I wouldn't be able to attend the interview. Aviation is a VERY small and tight knit community, so I don't want to burn any bridges. ExpressJet said that it wouldn't be a problem, and if I felt I wanted to work there, I could re-apply in the near future.
I was able to move back home to my family, my wife and my now one year old son when I started ground school at Pinnacle. My first experience with an airline ground school was pretty much what everyone had told me, it was like drinking water through a firehose. There is a lot of information you are expected to absorb in a short amount of time. With quality instructors (especially in the simulators), training is a bit easier. There was a lot of self-study outside of the classroom in order to stay up to where the instructors wanted us to be by certain points in the training. It helped that the roommate assigned to me also had an extrememly dilligent work ethic and was my sim partner. A week-by-week account of my training at Pinnacle can be found in the "Member Annoucements" section of the Jetcareers.com forums. About two months after beginning ground school, I passed my checkride in the simulator and became a CRJ first officer.
Currently, I'm on reserve, living in my base and enjoying my job. I don't regret anything I've done in my journey to get here, and I look forward to the future challenges this career will surely bring. I can honestly say that without Doug Taylor and the rest of the people that frequent Jetcareers, things would have been different. I knew I could always turn to them for honest, straight forward information and advice. I would also never have found Skymates if they had not been and advertiser on Jetcareers. Thanks to everyone that has helped me get this far, and good luck to everyone that is just setting out or thinking about setting out along this path.
Pinnacle Airlines First Officer