“People who Care” Why Ben Zwebner Flies Trans States

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Trans States Captain Ben Zwebner

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

After Less than Two Years at Trans States, Pilot Achieves Career Goal of Flying for American Airlines

 

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Captain Qualified First Officer Marlon Choyce

At Trans States, pilots are going to get the experience they need to move on to a major carrier.  Our training program is second to none, and we produce pilots that major airlines want to hire.  One of the most recent Trans States pilots to move on to the majors was Captain Qualified First Officer (CQFO) Marlon Choyce. Marlon’s ultimate career goal has always been to be an American Airlines pilot, and he achieved that goal after less than two years at Trans States.  Marlon credits the Trans States CQFO program with getting him the Pilot in Command time he needed to be hired by American.

The Pilot in Command, or PIC, is the crew member ultimately held responsible for the safety of a flight. The number of hours that a pilot acts in the role of Pilot in Command is called PIC time. The more PIC time that a pilot has, the better their chances of being offered a position with a major carrier.  Only a Captain can accumulate PIC time, which is why upgrade time is so important to First Officers.

First Officers facing long upgrade times often find themselves between a rock and a hard place.  As First Officers, they’re unable to accumulate the PIC time that they need to move on, but starting over with another airline with a shorter upgrade time means walking away from any accrued seniority.

Two years ago, Marlon found himself in just such a situation.  He’d been a First Officer with another regional airline for four years, and was looking at another two to three years before he could upgrade—even though he met the qualifications to fly as a Captain.  But with four years of accumulated seniority, he was understandably hesitant to start over with another airline.  However, when he heard about the Trans States CQFO program, he realized that starting over could be the right decision for his career.

The CQFO program allows pilots who meet Captain requirements to fly as either a Captain or a First Officer, depending on the airline’s scheduling needs.  As a Captain-qualified pilot, Marlon could start earning PIC time at Trans States immediately, which would bring him closer to his goal of flying for American.

Ultimately, Marlon made the decision to leave, and it paid off.  At Trans States, he earned PIC time during his very first trip out of training, and went on to earn a total of 135 PIC hours during just over 18 months.  “I earned no PIC time at my previous regional,” Marlon recalls. “At Trans States, I earned 135 hours in less than half the total time that I spent at my previous airline.”

While gaining PIC time was the deciding factor in Marlon’s career move, the decision to leave also made sense financially.  Even as a first year CQFO, Marlon earned more than he was earning with four years of seniority at his former employer (CQFOs earn $50.82 per flight hour when flying as a First Officer and $64.74 per flight hour when flying as a Captain).

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Flying as a Captain also provides leadership experience, which is important to mainline airlines.  “Mainlines are looking for pilots who are both qualified and equipped for leadership roles,” he explained.  “At Trans States, I was able to perfect my skills and hone knowledge twofold.  No matter where I was, I always had to be ready to fly in the left seat.”

To pilots who are preparing for mainline interviews, Marlon offers this piece of advice.  “I found that being organized and presenting yourself appropriately in customer service situations resonated with people.  As a result, I’ve learned first-hand that the major airlines look for signs of those good habits in their own pilot hire candidates.”

If you’re a pilot in the same situation that Marlon once found himself—Captain-qualified, but unable to upgrade, the Trans States CQFO program will get you the experience you need to advance your career.  Marlon is unequivocal in his endorsement of the program, and urges any pilot who finds themselves in such a situation to consider it.

“I would absolutely recommend the CQFO program to anyone.”

To learn more about the Trans States CQFO program, please click here.

Trans States Inspires High School Students to Become the Next Generation of Aviators

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Students from McClure High School in St. Louis get a behind-the-scenes look at the work that goes on in our maintenance hangar.

This spring, Trans States had the opportunity to welcome math students from McCluer High School in St. Louis to our corporate offices and hangar facility for the third year in a row.  Their instructor, Jenna Henderson, is a lifelong aviation enthusiast, who started organizing annual field trips to Trans States after learning about aviation career opportunities from her neighbor, Jan McCall.

Jan, a former Trans States pilot turned Aviation Studies professor, suggested that Jenna encourage her students to consider aviation as a career path.  The industry is facing a severe shortage of qualified personnel, and a recent study by Boeing projects extraordinary demand for pilots, mechanics and flight attendants over the next 20 years.  Jan proposed a field trip to Trans States’ St. Louis headquarters so that Jenna’s students could see first hand all of the different aviation career opportunities that they could pursue right in their hometown.

Even though many of Jenna’s students had never even flown before, let alone considered aviation as a career, she jumped at chance to visit Trans States with her students.  “Trans States is in my students’ backyard, and it offers many career paths that they may not even know about,” she explained.  An annual tradition was born.

This year’s tour included a tour of the cabin trainer that our flight attendants use to practice everything from the beverage service to emergency evacuation drills, as well as a demonstration of the Graphical Flight Simulators that our pilots use during training.

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Students also toured Systems Operations Control (SOC), where they learned about career opportunities in Dispatch, Crew Scheduling and Maintenance Control.  During the SOC tour, the students spoke with McCluer alum and Maintenance Controller Bryan Cross, who told the students about his career and the steps that he took to get where he is today.

The highlight of the trip is always the visit to the Trans States hangar facility, where students have the opportunity to get hands on with our Embraer 145 aircraft and watch our mechanics in action.  For many of the students, it’s the first time that they’ve ever been near an airplane.  “I’ve never been around this type of environment before,” student Carlando Dickens remarked.  “It’s different and interesting.”

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The trip is also a great opportunity for Jenna to show her students how the math skills they are learning in class will be important later in life.  This resonated with student Megan Robinson, who remarked, “It’s really interesting to see how the mechanics basically have to take the entire plane apart, and then put it back together.  With all of the measurements that they have to do, it makes sense that they would have to understand mathematical problem solving.”

Her classmate, Hailey Drake, agreed.  “I’m glad to see that what we learn in school becomes important later on in life,” she added. “Being able to use math calculations can help you do what you want to do for a living, just like the mechanics I’m meeting today.”

Assisting with the field trip was future Trans States pilot Adam Lange.  Adam, who is part of Trans States’ Aviators program for aspiring collegiate pilots, enjoyed the chance to teach people about the airline industry.  “I don’t remember ever having an opportunity like this when I was in school,” he admits. “It’s important that kids know about the options that exist in their own hometown.”

Trans States Chief Operating Officer Fred Oxley couldn’t be happier about the annual visit from the McCluer students.  “As an industry, it is our duty to inspire the next generation of aviators,”  he said.  “In the coming years, I hope to encounter these students flying our planes, fixing our planes, and serving our passengers.”

To learn more about career opportunities at Trans States, please click here.

Flight Crew’s Actions Will “Give the Gift of Sight to Someone who Needs it”

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When a Trans States flight diverted to Raleigh, a quick-thinking flight crew ensured that a critically important shipment of transplant tissues was saved.  The shipment contained corneas, which were en route to a medical center in Providence when the flight was diverted.

Fortunately, Flight Attendant Binh Kbuor noticed that the shipment had a notation asking for any delay information to be sent to a telephone number on the box.  Binh showed the notation to Captain Jason Secondi, who immediately followed up with MNX Global Logistics, the company that had coordinated the shipment.

In the below note, the COO of MNX Global Logistics explains how Binh and Jason’s actions ensured that the valuable tissues were saved and could be used in a future surgery.

“We were shipping corneas for transplant, when the flight was diverted to Raleigh. The pilot, Jason Secondi, took it upon himself to call the consignee in Providence from his personal cell phone and let them know the corneas were delayed. That information was passed to us at our call center, and we were able to speak directly to Jason several times.  He was extremely helpful, and although the intended surgery was missed, we were able to recover the shipment from a ground agent in Raleigh and return the corneas to the lab in Birmingham and salvage the precious tissue. Without Jason’s actions, this tissue would have been lost.

We always appreciate our partnership with American Airlines Cargo, but at times like this, we must recognize Jason’s actions, going above and beyond, to assist us with this precious shipment.

As always, we thank you and your team for all your support, and a very special thank you to Jason for going the extra mile and assuring the tissue wasn’t lost and guaranteeing the gift of sight for someone who needs it.”

Aviators Interns Tour Trans States Headquarters, Meet Company Leaders

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Our Aviators internship program provides talented student pilots with a defined pathway to the Trans States flight deck upon completion of ATP minimums.  Throughout the course of the program, participants are mentored by Trans States pilots, are provided with advance copies of training materials, and participate in the Trans States Airlines Command Leadership course, a program typically offered only to Trans States Airlines command pilots.  Interns also visit corporate headquarters in St. Louis to get a behind-the-scenes look at the operation and to meet Trans States leadership.

During a recent group trip to St. Louis, three of our current Aviators shared their insights about the program, including how it will benefit their careers.

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Current Aviators interns pose for a group shot during their recent trip to St. Louis.

Dakota Knaff is a sophomore at Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation, where he is studying Aviation Flight Science and Aviation Operations Management.  Dakota is looking forward to flying the Embraer 145 when he becomes a Trans States pilot. “I’ve always wanted to fly the Embrear 145,” he enthused.  “I flew on one last year to Houston, and I prefer it over the Embraer 175.  It’s smaller, but quick and sleek.”

Dakota is excited about the networking opportunities that Aviators provides student pilots.  “I don’t know of any other airline that brings students to their corporate headquarters, especially if they’re private pilots,” he remarked.  “Being able to meet the Director of Flight Operations is just one example of the endless connections that I know I will make through Aviators.”

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Chief Operating Officer Fred Oxley chats with Aviators interns during a recent visit.

A sophomore at Embry-Riddle in Daytona, Tayvon Gaddis is studying Aeronautical Science with a minor in Meteorology, and is finishing his instrument rating. “I saw a link for Aviators on Facebook that someone just happened to share. I immediately saw the benefits to getting a head start in the professional aviation world.”  The headquarters visit solidified his impression of Trans States as a great place to launch his career.  “Everyone is friendly and helpful,” he said.  “I will absolutely work for Trans States after I complete the Aviators program, because the end result is having a job at a good airline.”

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Aviators interns tour our maintenance hangar and get an up close look at our Embraer 145 aircraft

Daniel Shnick is an Aviation and Finance double-major at Quincy University, and is currently working on his CFI rating.  Daniel discovered Aviators when he was looking for something that would benefit his career while he finished school.  “I met some very enthusiastic Trans States recruiters at Quincy, and they told me about the program,” he explains.  “What really stood out to me was the headquarters visit, training opportunities, and having a pilot mentor.” Daniel is especially looking forward to gaining interview preparation tips from his mentor.

We’re looking forwarding to welcoming these talented pilots to the Trans Sates flight deck in the future.  In the meantime, we’ll be helping them lay the groundwork for a successful commercial aviation career.  If you’d like to join them, click here for more information and to apply online.