Discuss career path since graduating.
I graduated from the Daytona campus in December of 1999 with a B.S in Aeronautical Science and a minor in aviation safety. After graduation I started teaching as a Flight Instructor off campus and was hired as a First Officer with American Eagle Airlines.
The aviation industry took an unpredictable turn after the tragic events of September 11th. I noticed how the industry as a whole was requiring an emphasis on Pilot In Command flight time, so in 2003 I made a tough choice and decided to change airlines. I joined Comair Delta Connection and was based and living in Cincinnati, OH for 3 years.
On December 15th, 2006 I suffered a traumatic accident as a pedestrian that nearly ended my life and my career as a professional pilot. After many weeks, months and years in physical rehabilitation, I slowly learned to breathe, swallow, chew and stand on my own. After many struggles and frustrations, I was able to return to the sky. I am now a Captain with Spirit Airlines flying the Airbus 320, based in Dallas Ft. Worth International Airport.
How did you overcome the accident and achieve the goal of Captain with Spirit?
I grew up around aviation. My father was a Captain with Aeromexico for over 30 years, so being a pilot is part of my DNA.
My life and my family’s lives were forever changed on December 15th, 2006. While crossing the street in the crosswalk and with the walk signal, myself and a young woman I was dating were struck from behind by a private sanitation truck. I sustained multiple and life threatening injuries. Sadly the young woman I was with was killed.
Four weeks later I woke up to the sound of my mother’s voice as I came out of a medically induced haze. Not understanding what happened, I had to be reminded of what had occurred. I laid in the bed of the Intensive Care Unit of the trauma hospital stunned. Unable to move and talk because of a tracheotomy, I just cried in disbelief as I learned the fate of the young woman and the extent of my injuries.
I underwent more surgical procedures as my recovery continued. After being discharged from the ICU, I was taken to a sub-acute rehabilitation facility (nursing home). After three months I was finally strong enough to endure a flight back to Texas. Once there, my recovery would continue for about 3 more years. Day in and day out I was spending my time between doctor visits and physical rehabilitation.
Since the night of the accident, I’ve had the support of my friends and family. My immediate family came to my aid as well as friends from ERAU, as well as non-ERAU friends (but I won’t hold that against them).
The outpouring of support from the ERAU staff, students and alumni stunned my parents. Although I don’t specifically recall this incident. I was told that a good friend of mine who is an ERAU graduate was in the ICU room when I suddenly ripped out an IV I had. He immediately jumped out of the chair, pressed both his hand firmly on my arm to prevent blood loss and he screamed for help. The level of support ranges from this to as simple as a letter of encouragement in the mail.
I wish I had a profound, inspirational or encouraging message as to how I was able to overcome this catastrophic accident. For me, the choice was clear and simple…either give up or go forward. I chose to put aside any thoughts of anger, blame, pity or animosity. As long as I was moving forward and taking action towards my goal of regaining my independence, a possibility of returning to the sky was available…and that’s all I could ask for, a possibility and a chance.
What motivates you to do my best?
The support and encouragement of my friends and family gives me the drive to do my best. I know that if it’s meant to be, it’s up to me. Nobody can do it for me, but knowing you have people who are in you corner is important.
I was given a second chance at life, a second chance to be the best I can be, not many people get that opportunity.
Recognizing the significance of that is critical. I acknowledge that a simple “Thank You” to the medical personnel, the police, my friends and family is not enough. I have to live a good life, a life that matters, and a life that motivates and inspires others.
What advice do you have for students who face setbacks in their careers?
Can you have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without peanut butter or jelly?…of course not! Setbacks are a part of life, they’re going to happen. So, if we know they are inevitable, what can one do to prepare? You have to file a flight plan, a “life” flight plan. Have your goals written down, goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.
It’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do about it. Remember this, airplanes are safe while in the hangar, but that’s not what they are designed for.