Editor’s note: This article is the first in a new series called “Young Guns,” where you’ll hear from the next generation of pilots–those under 30 years old. While most of the headlines talk about the aging pilot population, there are thousands of younger aviators who are passionate about flying. If you or someone you know is a “Young Gun,” write an article and send it our way: firstname.lastname@example.org
My family and I are originally from Italy, but I was raised in Caracas, Venezuela. I always wanted to be an airline pilot for as long as I can remember. That was a dream my closest relatives never understood at the time and did not approve of at all.
I left Venezuela on my own and started flying in Miami, Florida when I was 18 years old, struggling with three jobs, living in a crash pad and paying for my flight training at ADF Academy at Tamiami Airport. I was full of insecurities and doubted if I could ever get this far.
Along my path, like any other pilot, I experienced both sides of aviation and met people who discouraged me (like my first instructor) and some who made me believe anything was possible.
After eight months at ADF I had roughly 12 hours total flying time, when the gas prices boomed in South Florida mostly because of the election of the governor. Along with the fuel price increase came the increase in cost of my flight training.
I decided I couldn’t keep up with it and started looking for the possibility of finishing my training in South America. So I went back to the place I started from scratch. With little savings, I found a flight school that rented me a beaten up Cessna 150 and 172 and I met a couple of retired instructors just by going to local airport cafes and talking to people. They taught me how to fly in a very vast land of an undeveloped country with few tools. Few airports had precision approaches and the airspace was mostly uncontrolled and a non-radar environment.
Finally after 250 hours, I got my CPL in November 2007. The next day I found my first job at the same airport cafe where I met my instructors, flying a Part 91 King Air 100 for three months in the Caribbean, based out of the Dominican Republic. Right after that, I jumped to a Learjet 55C from the same owner (local construction company) for another five months until I was able to get hired at my first airline, flying a DC-9 on domestic flights for almost three years.
I then went to Africa for a one-year contract flying for a company out of Johannesburg, South Africa, but based every three months in places like the Middle East. I experienced some of the most amazing flying in my career there.
After that contract expired, I came back to the United States and got my ATPL, typed in the DC-9/MD-80. Shortly after that I met a pilot who changed my life when he recommended me for an interview on a newly established cargo airline with MD-11s.
I got hired two weeks later and got typed in the MD-11, which I’ve been flying for three years around the globe and recently made my captain upgrade at age 27. I thought this was interesting, then I ran into one of our company’s crew members who suggested I may be the youngest person to fly left seat in the history of that airplane. I honestly don’t possess the data to verify this, but it sure makes it an interesting fact. It also makes me proud of my accomplishment.
I know every pilot has his or her own story to tell and any pilot who flies for a living has a host of jobs, some good and some bad. I wanted to share my own story with Air Facts readers and enthusiasts so they know that everything is possible in this crazy and evolving aviation world. That anyone can reach their flying dream even when the odds are against them. They were with me, but I learned to work beyond that. If I had a secret to my accomplishment, it would be to be outgoing and willing to show your true desires. I was. The limits are only set by ourselves and now I have Captain in front of my name.