When he’s not flying the line, Captain Ben Zwebner is the voice behind the “Ask a Line Pilot” feature on our website, where he answers questions on topics ranging from base assignments and bidding, to what life is like on reserve. Recently, someone asked Ben why he personally chose to fly for Trans States, and why he would recommend Trans States over another regional airline. Here’s what Ben had to say:
Back in 2010, I interviewed with three regional airlines. All were big names at the time. I was offered a position with two, and I accepted the one that I felt best fit what I was looking for. But I was a brand new commercial pilot, and knew very little about airline life. Long story short, it was not a positive experience. I had such a rough time working for them that I eventually quit and swore off an airline career altogether.
Instead, I pursued a career in general aviation, accepting a position as the Chief Instructor of a 141 flight academy, while working other flying side jobs. After two years at the school, two of my instructors and friends left to work for Trans States, and they both listed me as a reference. Later, Trans States recruiting reached out to me through them as a potential candidate. Naturally I was hesitant to get back into the airline world. Yet due to my friends’ enthusiasm about Trans States, I decided that I at least needed to call the recruiters back, thank them, and tell them that I intended to decline the offer.
But even though my response was “thanks, but no thanks,” a recruiter convinced me to come to St. Louis for an interview anyways. Off I went. I had no intention of taking the job. I wore a polo shirt and khakis because I was just taking the interview to be polite. I don’t think that I even tucked my shirt in.
However, when I arrived, the interview was different than my previous airline interviews. The other three interviews I had done years before felt very cold and cookie cutter.
At Trans States, I felt like the recruiter was more interested in who I was, as opposed to what I had memorized from an interview prep book.
We had a very friendly conversation. While I was sitting there, a sim instructor dropped by and joined the conversation. I saw a very warm and friendly dynamic. Over the next few days, I hung around the airport and spoke with as many Trans States pilots as I could. Each one of them told me how much they liked working there. After much deliberation, I took the job!
When I started training in 2014, the FAA changed over to the new ATP rules that we know today. When I passed my systems oral exam and the paperwork went to the FAA, Captain Stelzner, the System Chief Pilot, was informed that I was not eligible to fly at a 121 airline under the new ATP rules, due to a grey area in the new rules that I fell into with my ATP certificate.
Captain Stelzner called me up to apologize, and told me that I was going to be cut from the course. But instead of firing me, he found me a position as a training scheduler so that I could have a job, maintain my seniority and stay with Trans States while I worked on finding a solution. A month later, the FAA approved my returning to the course. Within 12 hours I was back in a class, picking up where I left off.
Trans States could have just pushed me aside as if I was just another pilot–and I was exactly that, just another pilot. But they didn’t. That same Captain Stelzner, who helped me find a solution rather than letting me go, is now our Director of Flight Operations, which is very comforting.
When I interviewed with the other airlines in the past, despite being excited that I was offered the job, I felt that I was just a number to them. At my old airline, I most definitely just felt like a number on their roster, and was treated as such.
At Trans States, Crew Scheduling knows me by name. They even called me to congratulate me on the birth of my son.
Another time, I was on my way in for a trip when I got the news that my cousin’s wife lost her battle to leukemia overseas. I told my Regional Chief Pilot and he told me on the spot that I could go be with my family. He said would find a way to cover my flying. Just like that. All so I could be with my cousin during his loss. Having the benefit of seeing how it could be, I am glad of how it is here, at Trans States.
I know that was long-winded but my point is that the people at Trans States care. That means a lot in the 121 world. There’s more to an airline than numbers, statistics, seats in the back, or if the engines are mounted on the wings or the tail.
Kermit the Frog sings, “It’s not easy being green. People tend to pass you over because you are not standing out like sparkles on the water or stars in the sky.”
That’s us. We are green. We don’t have the sparkles of the bigger planes, but we have a great set of values and management that I feel truly cares. I enjoy coming into work because I love my crew members. Each one of them has become like an extended family member. Some are close like brothers and sisters, others are like your kooky aunt who you see once a year, but overall, they are good and fun-loving professionals that make each trip a joy. Trans States is a small company with a good heart.
Do you have questions about life at Trans States? Captain Zwebner can answer them here: http://bit.ly/2CGkGtg