Earlier this year, Jessica Henderson thought her dream of working as an airline pilot would have to wait – again.
Then, “the stars aligned” and a program that would transition her from helicopter pilot to commercial airline pilot quickly popped back in the picture.
In March, Jessica became the first to sign on with PSA in our Rotor Transition Program (RTP) at SkyWarrior. This week, she began her Indoc training with our latest group of First Officers.
Jessica’s journey through the program took longer than some RTP graduates because obligations to her Flight Company Command duties ate into time she could have used to gain flight hours. But, she “finally made it” and is now looking at all the possibilities that lie ahead in her new career here at PSA.
Jessica joined the military just after high school and didn’t know what she wanted to do until she went to flight school and her eyes opened to the world of aviation and becoming a pilot. She said she thought to herself, “Wow, that’s what I want to do.” But, as with many aspiring pilots, the reality of cost to make that dream happen sunk in and she “stuffed that dream away.”
Fast forward to earlier this year and the dream looked as if it had to be stuffed away again as one of her original options to transition was stymied. She was attending SkyWarrior already when PSA teamed up with the flight school for our RT Program. Through the program, Jessica was able to ease her mind a bit about the cost (PSA contributes up to $23,000 towards a pilot’s flight time requirements in order for them to achieve their R-ATP) and move closer and closer to her dream.
“The sky’s the limit,” Jessica said. “Keeping my eyes open and looking at all the possibilities.”
Watch Jessica talk about her journey from “rotor head” to PSA pilot:
Title: First Officer
How long have you worked for PSA? I’ve been at PSA 1 year and 9 months.
What brought you to PSA? I came to PSA not just for the upgrade, but for the opportunities. PSA is an airline with growth, not just in its fleet, but all around. Every day new positions become available internally for any employee that wants it. If you want to just fly the line, you can do that, but if you want to be in management or work for the union, it is all possible, too. Furthermore, PSA provides the flexibility I need to work on my other projects and see my family.
How long have you been in the airline industry? I’ve been in the airline industry since June 2013. I first started working for another airline in 2013 where I spent 2½ years working internationally before I came to PSA in November 2015.
Give us a brief overview of what you do: Currently I’m a First Officer based in Charlotte, NC. My job is to aid the captain in all duties related to the operation of the aircraft (preflight, setup, etc.). Also, I’m a Cadet Recruiter and Mentor. I attend school events and recruit future PSA pilots. I also mentor a group of students (cadets) from the moment they enter the program until they become pilots here at the company.
Where’s your favorite place you have traveled? It’s hard to say. I’ve been fortunate in my career to have been able to travel all over North, Central, South America and the Caribbean. Every destination is exciting and has things to see and places to explore.
What are some of your hobbies? Coming from an island, I love the beach, boats, fishing, surfing, etc. I like to watch any kind of sport: basketball, baseball, soccer, golf, etc.
What do you love about working for PSA? Apart from the flexibility and the quality of life I have at the company, I will say its employees. Everyone is very welcoming and you enjoy coming to work. Also, I have the ability not just of flying the line but also recruit and meet new aspiring pilots wanting to enter the aviation industry.
Would you recommend PSA and why? Yes, I will and have recommended PSA. It is a great company with a lot of growth and opportunities. The opportunities to grow professionally without sacrificing quality of life and family are the reason to come to PSA.
Tell us something about your role that most people don’t know: As a first officer, it’s pretty much straight-forward. You basically follow company standard operating procedures (SOP’s). As a recruiter, I get to go on the road and talk to aspiring and seasoned pilots interested in PSA. I also conduct cadet interviews. Once selected for the cadet program, the cadets are divided or put into groups. Each group has a mentor assigned who has the task of helping/mentoring each cadet so they achieve their ultimate goal of becoming an airline pilot.
What has been the most rewarding part of your job? The most rewarding part of my job is meeting new people every day, visiting new destinations and being able to do what I always wanted to do, which was fly. Every day I get to put on that uniform and transport people to their families or work. I get to interact with not just the passengers, but I get to fly with incredible crews. As a mentor, I get to help others achieve their goals of becoming pilots. I see myself in these new aspiring pilots trying to get to the next level. We all know it is not an easy task and takes a lot of dedication, time, and an extensive learning process.
As a recruiter and mentor, what is the most commonly asked question from cadets you interview and/or meet? What I enjoy the most about recruiting and mentoring is that there is no one question, there is usually like a million questions more like it. It is so dynamic and every day the industry changes and new questions arise. Questions about classes and degrees, company-specific questions (PSA), American Airlines questions, logbooks and preparation, check rides, etc. The list keeps going. Imagine one question per cadet around all the schools, it can be lengthy. Here at PSA there is a great team that helps out 24/7 when comes to answering questions. I always try to answer all the questions I can but you always encounter situations where you have to ask for help. Krystal McCoy (HR Cadet and Rotor Transition Program Recruiter) and the Human Resources department do an outstanding job answering all the questions we have. Without them, I couldn’t answer half the questions I get asked every day.
What is the next step you want to achieve in your career? Currently my next step is to upgrade and achieve what many pilot dreams of, reaching American Airlines. For me to able to reach my goals I must become the most rounded pilot and employee I can be. One day I would like to enter the management side of flying either in the training department, safety department of even chief pilot of VP of Operations. The possibilities are endless, but everything starts with education which allows me to manage the flying environment better.
Tell us something no one knows about you: I have five brothers and sisters. I’m also a current student, completing Master’s degree in Safety. Currently, I’m only 26 years old and already have flown all over America and have a 737 Type-Rating and CRJ Type-Rating.
On August 1, PSA launched a brand new web store. This new mobile-friendly store offers employees quality PSA apparel and accessories that they will be proud to wear and use. To celebrate and promote the launch, we held road show events in Dayton, Cincinnati and Charlotte giving our employees the chance to touch and feel the apparel before they place an order. The store is open to the public, so now anyone can purchase PSA branded items.
Wear the PSA logo with pride. Visit the store today to purchase your favorite PSA gear.
Check out photos from our launch below.
Title: Ground Training Supervisor
How long have you worked for PSA? I’ve been with PSA just over two years.
What brought you to PSA? The opportunity to work at a company with growth, both in the company, and professional growth opportunities and to relocate closer to my wife’s family in Northwest Ohio.
How long have you been in the airline industry? PSA is my first 121 carrier, however I’ve been in the aviation industry since 2000. My previous roles have mainly been in flight instruction, flight training management focusing on FAA Part 141 schools, and 135 flight operations.
Give us a brief overview of what you do: My primary role as the Ground Training Supervisor is to manage the ground training portions of the pilot new hire, recurrent and upgrade classes. This includes overseeing instructor staffing and scheduling, developing courseware and being a point of contact for students during training in Dayton. There are a number of secondary duties to help support the training department and flight operations as well, including flying the line as a First Officer.
Where’s your favorite place you have traveled? It’s hard to think of a favorite. As a pilot, I’ve been able to fly into some pretty interesting places and have been able to explore new cities.
What are some of your hobbies? I’ve always been a bit of a history buff, and now living in the Dayton area has really appealed to the aviation nerd in me learning about the Wright Brothers’ background and history. In the summer, my wife I and love to explore the bike trails throughout the area.
What do you love about working for PSA? I would have to say the people at PSA and the opportunities that exist here. I have a great team of instructors I enjoy working with and leadership that is supportive of the department and professional development. When interacting with other departments, I’ve found everyone to be friendly and willing to help out.
Would you recommend PSA and why? I would (and have) recommended PSA to friends and former students. As a company, PSA has a lot of things going for them and great opportunities.
Tell us something about your role that most people don’t know: I think most people don’t realize the challenges or how encompassing the training department really is. Beyond the normal day to day teaching of systems and procedures, we are developing content for the future, looking at new ways to efficiently and effectively deliver content.
What has been the most rewarding part of your job? I’ve always found it rewarding to share my knowledge and passion for aviation with others. I had a boss in the flight training world and we would say to each other on the most stressful days: “We’re making dreams come true.” As Clichéd and cheesy as that may sounds, it’s a great feeling to be walking through an airport and seeing pilots who have come through training and are living out their dreams and know I helped them get there in some way.
Tell us something no one knows about you: Not really a secret that no one knows, but more of a fun-fact: Years ago at an airshow in Florida, I had the honor of meeting Gen. Paul Tibbets who flew the Enola Gay and dropped the first atomic bomb.
Title: Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA)/Line Operation Safety Audit (LOSA) Program Manager
How long have you worked for PSA?: I have worked at PSA for over 3 years. I was hired as a First Officer in May of 2014. I transferred into Safety in December of 2016.
What brought you to PSA? I came to PSA during a time of exponential growth. I was hired right as we were taking delivery of the first CRJ900s. The growth is what really enticed me to choose PSA over other regional carriers.
How long have you been in the airline industry? I have been in the airline industry since I was hired at PSA in May of 2014.
Give us a brief overview of what you do: I manage two of our safety programs. The first, which takes up most of my time, is the FOQA program. FOQA is a program where we routinely download the Flight Data Recorder (aka the “black box”) to monitor how our crews are actually flying the aircraft. I have automatic “events” set up to automatically trigger when a crew exceeds guidance either given by their Pilots Operating Handbook or Flight Operations Manual. I work with the Pilot’s union and the Training Department in order to improve our training, based upon actual data, and improve operational safety. The LOSA program is a where we train a pilot to ride the jumpseat and observe day-to-day operations. The LOSA program can add valuable insight and color commentary to the black-and-white data of the FOQA program. I also represent the Safety department in industry meetings as well as on the Fleet Management Team. Oh and did I forget I fly the line too as a First Officer (hopefully soon to be Captain)!
Did you always want to be a pilot? Yes. I wanted to fly since I was a kid. I actually wanted to be an astronaut but a pretty severe knee injury precluded me from that goal. I started flying at 15 and got my private pilot’s license at 18. My degree is in Aerospace Engineering.
Where’s your favorite place you have traveled? Dublin, Ireland by far, if PSA would let me work from there I would in a heartbeat.
What are some of your hobbies? Believe it or not, I love to fly! I also am going back to school to get a database and analytics focused Master’s degree. I also enjoy riding my motorcycle and SCUBA diving.
What do you love about working for PSA? Working for PSA and specifically the Safety department, has allowed me to pursue my passion for aviation safety as well as maintain currency in flying the line. All of the people I work for have been great bosses and mentors.
Would you recommend PSA and why? Although we are one of the fastest growing regionals, we still maintain that family atmosphere with everyone working as a team towards the same goal.
Tell us something about your role that most people don’t know: Working with flight data is an IT-heavy job. I have to use my skills in database creation, business intelligence, and even programing. My vast amounts of flight data also makes my program one of the largest repositories of data on our system. I also regularly interface with Bombardier informing them how they may improve the systems and data of the CRJ. This interface has required me to actually use my engineering degree, which I enjoy.
What has been the most rewarding part of your job? Making a real and measurable impact on the safety of our airline. My goal is to make PSA the industry leader in aviation safety.
Tell us something no one knows about you: I enjoy cooking and use it as a way to decompress after a day at work. My wife and I enjoy cooking all kinds of new foods. I really like making Steak Au Poivre.