While now he can’t imagine himself as anything other than a pilot, Randy Zehnder didn’t initially consider flying as a profession. Randy started flying while in high school in Jefferson City and received his pilot license when he was 17. Flying was something fun that he enjoyed, but not something that he had considered as a career path.
Randy joined the Air Force after high school and was part of an inter-continental ballistic missile launch crew, spending the majority of his Air Force career in an underground bunker in Kansas. While in the Air Force, he started to think about flying as a career, and used the GI bill to get certified to fly commercially. After leaving the Air Force, Randy moved back to Jefferson City and started doing flight instructing and charter flying. He also joined the National Guard and continued to expand his flying expertise by learning to fly helicopters.
Flash forward to 2014. For someone who hadn’t initially considered flying professionally, Randy has spent a long time in the aviation industry. Randy is now the number two pilot on the Trans States seniority list, having joined the company 30 years ago when it was still Resort Air. He has flown a diverse range of aircraft for Trans States, including the Metro II & III, the ATR 42 & 72, and the E145.
During his 30 years with the company, he spent 20 of them in Management, holding positions including Flight Manager, Assistant Chief Pilot, Chief Pilot, Acting Director of Flight Ops, and Line Check Airman on the ATR. He has also been a ground school and SIM instructor for all of the airplanes he’s flown for Trans States. Instructing is Randy’s favorite part of his job, and he enjoys helping others by passing his knowledge along.
Randy is something of an anomaly in the airline industry, having stayed with the same company for his entire career. Randy says that the decision to stay with Trans States for so long was a quality of life decision. He knew everyone at Trans States, and working for Trans States allowed him to be based near where he wanted to live without having to uproot his family. Another factor that has contributed to his decision to stay has been the stability offered by Trans States. While other regional carriers have come and gone over the years, Trans States has continued to persevere. And the very high position he occupies on the seniority list certainly isn’t an incentive to leave.
Randy continued his National Guard service for much of his career at Trans States and has been mobilized for active duty twice. He completed two tours of duty in Iraq, one in 1990-91 and the other in 2003-04. Randy retired from the National Guard in 2005.
When asked what his favorite thing to fly is, Randy says that’s something that he gets asked a lot. He says for just messing around, helicopters are really fun to fly. But if you actually need to get somewhere, airplanes are the way to go. He’s enjoyed flying all of the planes he’s flown for Trans States and can’t pick a favorite.
When he’s not flying, Randy enjoys riding his Harley, spending time with his family, and playing Texas Hold’em Poker.