Craig Armstrong: Celebrating 30 Years as Captain of the Ship

President Dion Flannery presents the 30-year service award to Captain Craig Armstrong.

President Dion Flannery presents the 30-year service award to Captain Craig Armstrong.

In his storied career, Captain Craig Armstrong has many memorable moments, but he put the celebration this week in honor of his 30 years of service at the top of the list. Armstrong sat down with us and reflected on his time with PSA. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: When and where did you learn to fly?
A: Spartan School of Aeronautics in Tulsa, OK.

Q: When did your aviation career begin?
A: I was an instructor, teaching private pilots in Bowling Green, KY and then flew charter for a couple of years in Owensboro, KY.

Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I’m from Lexington, KY.

Q: Did you always want to be a pilot? Any other occupation pursuits?
A: No. I worked in construction. I took an introductory pilot lesson and fell in love with it.

Q: Before you came to PSA, where did you fly?
A: I was hired by Britt Airways in 1983 and was a First Officer for one year. Then, I upgraded to Captain. I was there three years. Then in 1986, I was hired in as a Captain by JetStream International (which later became PSA).

Q: Where have you been based with PSA?
A: I’ve chosen to be based in Dayton for 30 years.

Q: You were set to be one of the first pilots to flow to American Airlines. Why did you choose to stay at PSA?
A: I found a home here. I felt like part of a family. The people. We went through hard times together and I wanted to stay with them for the good.

Q: What is your favorite jet to fly?
A: The Dornier 328 turboprop. It’s a “real pilot’s” airplane. It’s smooth and quiet.

Q: What’s the best part about working for PSA?
A: The relationships with the people. Each day, I have the opportunity to meet passengers, greet them and interact with them. The best job in the aviation industry is a senior line holder and flying the line.

Q: What’s your most memorable moment at PSA?
A: This one. When you have a chance to reflect on your career and take it all in. My other one is doing a cabin class proving run on the Brasilia with a plane full of FAA guys to get certified to fly the aircraft.

Q: What is your favorite destination to fly to?
A: Do I have to pick one? I have three. 1. Portland, Maine; 2. Sarasota, Florida and 3. Key West, Florida. I love seeing the ocean from the air.

Q: What is your favorite vacation spot?
A: Abaco, Bahamas.

Q: Tell us about your family.
A: I’m married and I have 5 children and 14 grandchildren. One son is an air traffic controller and another is a private pilot. All of them are involved, either as private pilots, students or on the ground, including grandkids. I take them up in my Cessna 150.

Q: Who do you credit for your success?
A: My wife. I wouldn’t be here without her.

What others have to say about Captain Armstrong:

“One of the finest aviators I’ve come across in my career. He’s always trying to make this airline better. He’s the captain of the ship, because that’s what he does.” – Michael Scrobola, Vice President Flight Operations

“He’s the model of a professional pilot.” – Randy Fusi, Vice President Safety

The Faces of PSA – Meet Gary Pratt

Gary Pratt with Kevin Reinhalter

Gary Pratt (left) shaking hands with former VP of Maintenance and Engineering Kevin Reinhalter.

Title: Vice President of Maintenance & Engineering

How long have you worked for PSA? 4 wonderful weeks.

How long have you been in the airline industry and what jobs have you done? I have worked in the industry since I graduated from Southern Illinois University. I spent the first 22 years with Delta. I did my best to work as many different positions as possible to learn all aspects of the maintenance business. Sheet metal mechanic in overhaul, line maintenance, maintenance control, regulatory programs, fleet analyst. My love has always been with line maintenance. New and different challenges every day. The second chapter of my career was with Air Wisconsin. I was hired in as the Director of Maintenance and escalated to VP of Maintenance & Engineering. Great company and great people at AWAC but PSA possesses high energy and significant growth opportunities.

Give us a brief overview of what you do: I am ultimately responsible for providing every PSA employee and American Airlines customer a safe, airworthy, and comfortable aircraft. Our flight and Inflight crews deserve a clean and functional work environment and our passengers demand a great flying experience. My objective is to accomplish this by collaborating with my team to develop and implement strategies for continual improvement. Another responsibility of my role is to create long-term initiatives based on forecasting models that will result in financial stability and top performance. I take this responsibility seriously as the end result certainly benefits our employees, customers, and shareholders.

What do you think PSA is best known for? “The Little Engine that Could.” When you look back at PSA’s challenged history and see where we are today, there is nothing that can or will stop the committed employees of PSA.

Why did you choose PSA? To be a team member of a growing company with endless opportunities. Every employee should feel that their career is in their hands which is a great place to be at the start of the day. Should they choose to be committed and not simply a contributor, there is no limit to where their efforts will take them within our company.

Why would you recommend PSA? The energy and fast-paced environment that is within PSA is contagious and something many people seek. It fulfills the soul and sends you home at the end of the day with a sense of accomplishment.

Where’s your favorite place you have traveled? Probably Croatia. Absolutely beautiful country with a significant history, wonderful people, and fabulous food.

What are some of your hobbies? I spend most of my free time running or working around the house. I am a mechanic at heart so fixing and improving things is a passion. When I am not training for a race or fixing something, you can find me cruising the less traveled roads on my Harley (Davidson motorcycle).

Tell us something about your role that most people don’t know: Creating a work environment where all employees can feel a sense of ownership and success is just as critical as producing safe and reliable aircraft.

What has been the most rewarding part of your job? So far, it has been meeting and interacting with many great people at PSA. I am extremely fortunate to have a staff that is both dedicated and extremely knowledgeable. I am very anxious to see what’s around the corner.

Tell us something no one else knows about you: When I was working towards my private pilots license during college, I couldn’t stop myself from feeling nauseous every time I flew so I quit that endeavor. Not to mention, my depth perception was so bad I never had a totally successful landing.

PSA Airlines, a Wholly Owned Subsidiary of American Airlines, Announces Industry-Leading Pay For New-Hire Pilots

GLINTstudios_Mindsalt_PSAairlines_00429New pilot pay package includes an immediate 56 percent increase in first-year wages, substantial cash retention and sizeable bonuses.

DAYTON, Ohio – PSA Airlines today announced significant changes to its pilot pay program, including industry-leading wages for new-hire pilots, an increased sign-on bonus for new recruits and retention bonuses for First Officers and Captains to create a top-tier compensation structure – marking a monumental milestone for the airline. These valuable enhancements, which are effective immediately, elevate PSA to the top of the regional industry in first-year compensation for new-hire pilots. This is an important milestone for the company’s recruiting mission to hire the best and brightest future aviators in the industry to carry out its future plans as a vital part of the American Airlines regional network.

“PSA’s new pilot compensation program is a true game-changer for our airline and we are proud to offer the highest first-year compensation in the regional industry,” said Dion Flannery, President of PSA Airlines. “This package complements the unrivaled stability and growth opportunity at our carrier and with a true seniority-based flow to American Airlines, PSA is well-positioned to offer prospective pilots the highest paying and most stable career path in commercial aviation.”

Details of the new compensation package include a 56 percent increase to the starting pay for new-hire First Officers, increasing wages from $24.62 per hour to $38.50 per hour. The airline will continue offering all new-hire pilots a $15,000 sign-on bonus, with an additional $5,000 for new-hire pilots with CRJ-type experience. PSA is also implementing a $20,000 retention bonus for First Officers hired under this new program to be paid out in installments after their one-year anniversary with the company. PSA is also instituting a $7,500 retention bonus for all Captains currently employed with the company.

With these changes, first-year pay for new-hire pilots now tops the regional industry at $58,500, plus an additional $3,000 with a commuter hotel allowance program implemented earlier this year. A pilot starting their commercial aviation career with PSA can reasonably expect to reach Captain and earn between $165,000 and $175,000 in compensation for their first three years of service with the company.

As a stable carrier owned by the largest airline in the world, PSA has a defined and committed fleet and growth plan. Since 2014, PSA has doubled its size from 49 aircraft to 115 aircraft and will continue to grow to operate 150 Bombardier CRJ aircraft.

Today’s announcement builds on the success of PSA’s sustained recruitment platform which includes the recent introduction and continued development of the airline’s Cadet Program. The program is the first of its kind and helps the most promising future pilots make a smooth transition from the classroom at top colleges, universities and flight schools to the cockpit and offers various levels of support as the Cadet’s certifications, training and experience evolves.

For more information about the benefits offered to PSA’s pilots, please visit: http://www.psaairlines.com/careers/pilots.

About PSA Airlines

PSA Airlines operates an all-jet fleet consisting of exclusively Bombardier regional jet aircraft. The company’s 2,500 employees operate nearly 700 daily flights to nearly 90 destinations. Headquartered in Dayton, Ohio, PSA also has flight crew bases located in Dayton, Cincinnati, Ohio, Knoxville, Tennessee, and Charlotte, North Carolina. PSA has maintenance facilities in Dayton and Canton, Ohio and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport and Charlotte, North Carolina. PSA operates 35 Bombardier CRJ200 aircraft, 26 Bombardier CRJ700 aircraft and 54 Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft. The airline expects to add additional Bombardier CRJ700 aircraft and Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft to its fleet in the next two years, bringing its fleet count to 150.

The Faces of PSA – Meet Matthew Coelyn

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First Officer Matthew Coelyn and his mom who is a Flight Attendant for American Airlines.

Title: First Officer

How long have you worked for PSA? I joined PSA in August 2014.

How long have you been in the airline industry? I have been flying since 2011. The airline industry has always been part of my life, both my parents use to fly for TWA. My mom is still an active flight attendant for American Airlines.

Give us a brief overview of what you do: At PSA, I get to do a lot of interesting and exciting things. In addition to assisting the Captain in the safe completion of a flight, I like to foster a fun and safe environment for the whole crew.

Where’s your favorite place you have traveled? I have two favorite places that I have traveled. Domestically, I would have to say Fayetteville, Arkansas. It’s a quaint Midwest town where the people are very nice. Internationally, hands down I would say Hong Kong. Hong Kong is just amazing. Words can’t even do it justice.

What are some of your hobbies? I enjoy personal training because I like helping others. I still enjoy flying, on the weekends. I work with a nonprofit that takes at-risk youth up in a Piper. It’s literally flying for flying’s sake and the positive impact it has is huge.

What do you love about working for PSA? There is a lot to love, from the beautiful skies to the amazing people I get to meet and interact with on a daily basis.

Why would you recommend PSA? I would recommend PSA for a multitude of reasons. The first is the people you get to fly with. The other pilots here are always willing to help and pass on their extensive knowledge. Equal cockpit gradient combined with a large pilot diversity results in an environment rich in experience and good times. The second reason I would recommend PSA is for career progression. With a quick upgrade when compared to other regional airlines and industry leading flow to American, the airline sells itself. The third reason is the flexible scheduling. Having the ability to manipulate my schedule is something completely unique only to PSA.

Tell us something about your role that most people don’t know: I’m young for the position I’m in, so I take it upon myself to scan the gate area when I have the opportunity and look for youth that think aviation is exciting. Once I identify these people, I will (with the Captain’s permission) show them the flight deck and take a picture of them so they will have a souvenir of their journey.

What has been the most rewarding part of your job? To me, the most rewarding part of my job is after I fly a leg and the passengers are disembarking. The fact these passengers trusted me to deliver them to their destination and I see them getting off the plane is really, really cool.

Tell us something no one knows about you: I have a 300-gallon salt water fish tank that I have been taking care of for ten years. I have a shark that was neglected and I nursed it back to health. She’s been with us for five years strong.