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


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).


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

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.


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.”


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”


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


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.

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.”

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.”

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.

Preparing for Your First Part 121 Ground School—An Instructor’s Perspective

Congratulations! You have been hired on as a Trans States Airlines pilot! This means that your airline career will begin with a six-week training program in St. Louis, Missouri.  There, you will learn everything that you need to know to succeed in the Trans States flight deck. Obtaining this knowledge will come through hard work and diligent, constant studying. While this may seem like a daunting task, it is achievable with the right level of focus and preparation. Trans States Airlines Flight Instruction Manager Paul Epperson shares his tips and advice for what to expect and how to prepare for the adjustment into 121 ground school.

Trans States Airlines Training Manager Paul Epperson

Look Ahead at the Training Footprint

Many new hires have only recently met the requirements for obtaining an ATP and are coming from a flight school or college training environment. Many others come from the ranks of the military or a corporate training environment. Most of these programs are built on a stage check, or stairstep approach to training. Since this is the only training many pilots know, they tend to apply the rules of their previous experiences to the airline world. Most of these programs use what I refer to as a “compartmentalized approach.”  In essence, the pilot focuses on what’s directly in front of him to succeed. If you apply these same principals to the 121 world, you may find yourself behind the power curve by the time you near your scheduled simulator sessions. This is not where you want to be. To avoid this, you have to plan ahead by looking at your training footprint.

What to Talk About Before You Leave Home

Oftentimes, ground school is compared to “drinking from a fire hose” or taking a couple of college courses that were designed to last a semester in just six weeks. At last count, our company manuals comprise more than 1,600 pages.  This is why it’s extremely important to sit down with your loved ones and explain that you will be completely immersed in the training environment for the next three months. Explain to them that this is likely to be the most intense three months you have ever had.  Try to impress upon them that if they are demanding of your attention during this time, that you very likely may fail.  In short, get your house in order before you leave for class.

“But what about weekends? You’re free weekends aren’t you?”  You’re going to hear this phrase or something similar to it. I encourage students to go home a couple of times during training to reconnect with their lives. I also tell them that unless they have an IQ of 180, they will likely struggle if they go home every weekend. Weekends should be used to catch up on material that you’re behind on and to solidify the information that you have been attempting to digest.  Make every attempt to gain the understanding of your loved ones before you leave home. 

An Investment in Your Future

Your first 121 ground school, your first check ride and your first recurrent training event are going to dictate how you feel about returning to the training center for the rest of your career. Thirty-five to forty years is a long time to fear the training center—you don’t want to get a sick feeling in your gut every time you hear the words “oral”, “recurrent” or “check ride.” I explain to students that if they do what I ask of them (and I ask a lot), they will form a foundation on which to build the rest of their careers. And, if they go all in now, everything for the rest of their careers will be easier. By completely committing themselves, they will leave ground school with a comprehensive understanding of the airline environment, as well as the principles of complex aircraft systems. What this means is the next time they go to class—wherever it may be—it will simply be a variation of the same things that I taught them.   And I want to be very clear about what I believe “all in” entails:

  • Get up at 6:30 AM to be in class by 8:00 AM. Stay focused for nine hours with a break for lunch. We finish at 5:00 PM.
  • Go back to the hotel and take a run (or whatever you need to do to clear your mind), get something to eat, call whomever you need to, and meet with your study group.
  • Spend 30 minutes to two hours with your study group each evening, depending on the material. Leave the group and study individually until you go to bed.
  • Repeat this every day for three months until you get to the line.
  • Approximately two months after completion of Initial Training, begin preparing for your first recurrent training.

Work Ethic and the Team

One important aspect that often is not reinforced properly is the need to work as a team. If you isolate yourself from your classmates, you will end up like the lone gazelle and soon will perish. I find hat the earlier a class bonds as a team, the more successful they are as a whole. You are going to have to trust and rely on one another to succeed. I tell students, “They don’t know what they don’t know,” hence the importance of getting together and quizzing one another. You will also need to find one individual who shares your work ethic to pair up with as a simulator partner. You are going to spend A LOT of time together, and you are going to be under considerable stress, so it’s important to choose wisely.

What to Expect Once You Arrive

The timeline for Trans States Airlines’ initial ground training is about seven weeks. This includes days off. (All subsequent references to time in this article refer to work days.)

I mentioned that most new hires don’t know what to expect. It’s difficult to prepare for something when you don’t know what is coming and I don’t want the class being reactive, so I take the time to lay out the entire training footprint on day one. I am going to do the same for you now.

Most 121 ground schools consist of several parts. Typically, the first part is administrative in nature and consists of a day or two of fingerprints, drug tests, photos for IDs, travel and insurance benefits, tax forms, etc.

Company Indoctrination

The second part is Company Indoctrination (referred to as “Indoc”). The time frame in our case is six to seven days. There are two open book tests and a one hundred question final. Once Indoc starts, the training can begin in earnest. Indoc is the most boring thing in the airline business! It doesn’t matter what airline you’re with, Indoc is brutal. It consists of things like the rules and regulations of the airline, hazardous materials and security, etc. Boring as it is, you have to know the rules.

It’s important to note that during training you will be taking on over 1,600 pages of material. The fact is, most people aren’t going to be able to study 1,600 pages of material in the time frame of a normal ground school. I explain to students that they “need to know a little bit about a whole lot and a whole lot about a little bit.” The key is knowing where to focus your studies. The instructor can make a world of difference here. I’m not implying that airline pilots are ignorant of the majority of the material—what I am saying is that you must know enough about certain things to reference them. That’s why we carry manuals (usually electronic in today’s aircraft environment).   For example, there’s a company policy on delays. I have pilots memorize key points of this program since, in our case, violating it can result in a half million dollar fine. I also explain that there is no need to memorize all the elements of the policy: You’re delayed. Since you’re delayed, you have plenty of time to look up the particulars of the policy.

Crew Resource Management

One full day is devoted to Crew Resource Management (CRM), with elements of it mixed throughout all of your training. Initially developed in the late 1970s, CRM is becoming a larger part of every airline’s training plan. Its objective is to identify and overcome obstacles to good crew communication and promote teamwork in all aspects of the operation.

General Operating Systems

Following CRM is General Operating Subjects (GOS), which lasts six days. GOS includes a more comprehensive look at some of the aspects of Indoc, but the primary focus is aircraft specific. This is where things get more interesting! You will be covering aspects of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the aircraft you were hired to fly, as well as winter operations, performance, weight and balance, and much more. GOS will also cover flows, call-outs and aircraft specific procedures. Flows are designed to place the switches in the proper place without using a checklist by following a series of patterns. The checklist is then read after each flow to confirm that everything ended up in its proper place. In effect, it allows you to double check your work while being backed up by another pilot. Gaining a solid foothold on the flows is critical to your success in the simulator.

Aircraft Systems

The timeline for Systems is 12 days. Typically, this is the most enjoyable part of the training process, but it’s also the most intense. Your understanding of the aircraft you fly has the potential to make a significant difference in the outcome of abnormal and emergency situations. The pilot of an airliner owes his passengers the highest degree of care. They are paying for your services, and they deserve a pilot who knows his craft. This includes, among many things, knowing your airplane like the back of your hand. Modern airliners have many complex systems that integrate with one another. It is incumbent upon you to learn as much as you can about these systems so that you may operate the machine as safely and efficiently as possible.

Systems integration training (SIT)

SIT consists of two half-day ground school sessions and three days of graphic flight simulation (GFS). The purpose of this time is to teach you how the various systems interact and how to do things like start the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), start the aircraft engines, bring the air conditioning (AC PACKS) online and many other critical functions. The GFS sessions (essentially Microsoft Flight Simulator in full-scale with touch point screens) are an invaluable training tool.

The Oral Exam

The oral can be the longest two hours of your life if you’re not properly prepared. On the other hand, if you went “all in,”  this is where you will reap the rewards of your efforts. When you show up for your oral exam, the examiner will ask you things about your aircraft, as well as company policy and procedures that will be very difficult(unless you’ve been through a 121 program before.) Their expectation of knowledge is very high—one day you may be flying their loved ones! Once on the line, you will be taking hundreds of lives into your hands each and every day. This is a responsibility not to be taken lightly.

SIT for the Simulator

This version of SIT consists of two half day sessions. Its purpose is to make sure you’re ready to transition to the simulator portion of your training.

It is essential that you know your flows, call outs and profiles before you go to the simulator. Do you remember the first time your instrument instructor asked you to fly an approach and talk to ATC?  Now imagine it in an aircraft that is far more complex, moving three times as fast and that’s after you slow it down to approach speed. The simulator sessions (eight periods, followed by a check ride) are usually compressed, with four sessions, a day off, four more sessions, and finally a check ride (if you’re ready).One of the biggest issues with simulator training is that if you get behind, there is little to no time to catch up, so being prepared is crucial. A typical simulator session usually consists of a two-hour briefing and four hours “in the box.” To be successful in the simulator, you and your partner need to be meeting before each of your sessions for at least two hours (preferably in the trainers) to go over your flows, call outs and procedures.

In Closing

To successfully complete a 121 training program, you must define what you believe it means to be a professional aviator (if you haven’t already) and hold yourself to that standard. This encompasses everything from how you wear your uniform to your knowledge of company policy and procedures. How you study and address your peers is also part of being a professional pilot.  Hold yourself to the highest possible standards! Even if no one is watching.