The Faces of PSA – Meet Blake Ditlow

Title: First Officer/Lead Cadet Pilot Recruiter

How long have you worked for PSA? Just over 2 years. Was hired June 9, 2014

How long have you been in the airline industry? Luckily, PSA has been my first 121 carrier and I’ve been very fortunate that this place is my first home in the airlines!

Give us a brief overview of what you do: As a First Officer, it’s the same duties as all of my fellow First Officers. Provide a safe and reliable service to our customers as well as demonstrate the duties of either Pilot Flying or Pilot Monitoring during our flights. Also, one of the most important jobs, being able to be used as a second resource for the Captain and assist in any way possible during routine events or abnormal/emergency procedures.

Where’s your favorite place you have traveled? That’s a great question! I went to Belgium years ago and that was quite an awesome experience. However, I took my brother over to Dublin for St. Patty’s Day last year and that was one of the greatest cities I had ever been to. People were very welcoming! I’m not sure if it was because that’s just how they are or the fact that I have red hair so maybe they thought I was one of them? I don’t know, but needless to say it was still a fantastic city with tons of history and great sights to see!

What are some of your hobbies? I’m an avid golfer and outdoorsman. I golf as much as I can and fish whenever I get the chance. The sun and I don’t get along very well because of the whole red hair thing but I do enjoy being outside as much as possible! I’m also a huge movie buff so you may hear me talk in movie lines A LOT. I just really can’t help it.

What do you love about working for PSA? The crews are some of the best people I’ve ever worked with. We have a bunch of hard-working individuals here that push themselves to be better each day. I think there’s no other place like that in the 121 regionals. My involvement with the Cadet Program and Pilot Recruitment really fills my heart with joy. I get the privilege to go out and tell people about my experiences with this great airline and hopefully get them to join this great PSA team; Most importantly though, the Cadet Program is the most fulfilling. Getting the chance to go to these schools and talk to a packed classroom of private pilots and above, and get to share my experiences with them of flying a jet is one of the most rewarding experiences a pilot can have. We always want to ignite the flame of jet-fueled passion in these kids and when you show up in a full pilot uniform and tell them all about flying, their faces just light up. Seeing the passion that those students have is one of those things that reassures me day in and day out of how much I love my job and how blessed I am that PSA gave me this opportunity to do what I do.

Would you recommend PSA and why? I would absolutely recommend PSA to anyone out there. We are currently growing at a substantial rate still with more airplanes being delivered. Yes, there are growing pains associated with the fast growth, but I’d rather have growing pains than shrinking pains. The Quality of Life here is unsurpassed in the regional industry especially when you’re able to be a part of the schedule adjustment period. The crews are some of the most caring and fun-loving people that you’ll meet. For me, the opportunities at this airline have been tremendous and it has been one of the greatest things in my life with getting to be a part of our recruitment team.

Tell us something about your role that most people don’t know: In regards to the cadet program, I am one of the representatives that goes out and visits potential partner schools to see if that specific school would be a great fit to be a part of our Cadet Program. It has been a lot of the behind-the-scenes work that most people haven’t heard of or really see and I’ve loved every second of it!

What has been the most rewarding part of your job? Talking to all those students with the cadet program is always going to rank up there in the top three, but floating around up there, as well is just saying bye to passengers after every flight. There’s still something that makes me excited every time I open that flight deck door once we’ve parked and seeing potentially 76 people sitting there looking at you and knowing that you got them there safely.

Secondly, one of the most amazing feelings is welcoming a child up to the flight deck to take a seat in the plane and giving them their wings. I still have pictures of me in American Airlines planes back in the day and I will always have that memory of me holding onto the yoke with the First Officer sitting next to me with my wings on as the “Captain” It’s just something that I’ll never forget.

Tell us something no one knows about you: I’m a huge fan of musicals. For all those who don’t like musicals or can’t stand singing, I urge you to go see The Book of Mormon. It is literally laugh-out-loud funny and you will have stitches in your side afterwards.

The Faces of PSA – Meet Debra Hoke

Deb HokeTitle: Director of Inflight Services

How long have you worked for PSA? I was hired August 1, 2006

How long have you been in the airline industry? 42 years

Give us a brief overview of what you do: Oversight of 850 Flight Attendant professionals, including recruiting, training and daily supervision.

Where’s your favorite place you have traveled?  Myrtle Beach and San Diego.

What are some of your hobbies? Golf and bicycling.

What do you love about working for PSA? The diversity and professionalism of its employees and being afforded the privilege and ability to give input that makes a difference in the way PSA operates.

Why would you recommend PSA? PSA provides career growth at a regional airline that is well-respected in the industry.

Tell us something about your role that most people don’t know: While I work in an office, the “office hours” are 24/7.

What has been the most rewarding part of your job? Watching a flight attendant grow in his/her career and convincing a flight attendant he/she adds value as an employee.

Tell us something no one knows about you: A childhood fantasy was to be able to play rag time piano.

The Faces of PSA – Meet Val Zimmerman

GLINTstudios_Mindsalt-PSA_0391 (1)Title: Lead Pilot Recruiter

How long have you worked for PSA? 16 years. I started out working as a ramp agent for PSA in Cincinnati while flight instructing until I had enough time to transition to Flight Operations as a First Officer.

How long have you been in the airline industry? 16 years, 4 months

Give us a brief overview of what you do: I manage all aspects of the pilot recruiting effort at PSA. This includes managing the recruiting events, the pilot recruiters, relationships with organizations and schools and the Pilot Cadet Program.

Where’s your favorite place you have traveled? The Grand Canyon.

What are some of your hobbies? I love general aviation flying, enjoy golfing and spending time with my family.

What do you love about working for PSA? The people here at PSA have made this company a home for me. I have made some lifelong friends here and love being a part of this family.

Why would you recommend PSA? I have grown up with PSA. I have seen the company go through fleet changes, furloughs, downgrades, upgrades and multiple leadership changes over the years. I can honestly say, that I have never seen PSA’s future look so bright!  It is such an amazing thing to be a part of. PSA has given me opportunities when I didn’t think there were any. This is a place where you can grow and that means a lot.

Tell us something about your role that most people don’t know. I help manage our company’s social media accounts.

What has been the most rewarding part of your job? The most rewarding part of my job is getting to go through the new hire experience with new pilots. It is exciting and motivating to see young pilots just starting their career knowing that their decision to come to PSA will land them at American Airlines.

Tell us something no one knows about you. I’m starting a Women In Aviation Chapter in Sacramento, CA.

First Officer Jason Mayer’s Journey to American Airlines

Jason Mayer1Jason Mayer is taking a big step in his career. The 38-year-old Chicago native, who has been a First Officer with PSA for 10 1/2 years, is moving on to American as part of our seniority-based flow program. Here is a Q&A with our resident pilot before he makes the transition to fly for the largest airline in the world.

Q: Before you came to PSA, where did you fly?
A: I was 18 when I took my first lesson at Palwaukke Airport in Illinois. I went to Purdue for Aviation Management and chose flying as a minor. Before coming to PSA, I flew out of south Florida for two years to the Bahamas and Cuba.

Q: How does the flow program with American work?
A: The flow agreement we have in place is based on seniority, so when your number is called, you have the choice to flow. It doesn’t matter if you’re a First Officer or a Captain; it only matters what your relative seniority is.

Q: You were based in Charlotte (CLT) with PSA. Will you remain in CLT as an American pilot?
A: I won’t be based in CLT with American. Since I’m a Chicago native and have a home both there and in Florida, Miami (MIA) or Chicago (ORD) would be an ideal base for me. Until I get enough seniority under my belt to hold either, Philadelphia (PHL) will be my assigned base.

Q: You delivered aircraft number 595 from Bombardier earlier this month. How many jets have you delivered from Bombardier?
A: I’ve delivered about a dozen new CRJ900s since the second round of planes started to arrive. All of the CRJ900s were new from the Bombardier factory in Canada.

Q: What’s the delivery experience like?
A: The folks at Bombardier are a fantastic group of people. They are just as interested in what is happening at PSA as I was to learn about how things operated at their facility.  From touring the assembly line and watching PSA aircraft being built from scratch, to the acceptance flight, right down to the delivery – it’s an experience most pilots don’t get to experience. I was fortunate to have been selected in the process.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
A: My hobbies include wake surfing, surfing, paddle boarding, soccer, hockey and anything on the beach under the sun.

Q: What are your future ambitions?
A: I plan on enjoying my time at American for the foreseeable future and enjoying the challenge a new job will present.

Q: What’s your most memorable moment at PSA?
A: My proudest moment recently took place during my last flight at PSA. I got to deliver aircraft number 110 to PSA with Randy Gossic. I have been flying with Captain Gossic for nearly seven years and he and I have flown every delivery that I’ve had the privilege of being part of together. He is a great friend, wonderful teacher and great pilot. It was truly an honor to have shared that experience with him.

Q: What is your favorite destination to fly to?
A: The neatest place I’ve personally flown to was Havana, Cuba, before the embargo lift. To fly into a communist country so close to the U.S., yet so foreign to Americans, was a very interesting and awesome experience.

Q: What is your favorite vacation spot?
A: I recently went to the north coast of the Dominican Republic – the Samana Peninsula.
I kind of fell off the grid for a week. I’ve been many places, but that was picture perfect.

Dave Lewis: Veteran Pilot, Jokester, World Traveler, Educator


Dave Lewis (center) with a recent class of pilots and dispatchers.

Fifty years in any industry is a feat not many people can claim. Recently, PSA added an employee who has flown 10,400,000 miles and 26,000 hours to their ranks.

Dave Lewis, a PSA ground school instructor who has taught more than 1,000 pilots, started his aviation career on June 6, 1966 and has flown all over the world since then. Here’s a quick look into the life of Dave.

Q: Where did you learn how to fly? A: Bakersfield, CA after graduating high school.

Q: When did your aviation career begin? A: June 6, 1966 with Pacific Airlines. I started as a station agent where I did everything from taking tickets to air freight.

Q: You have experience in the military. What branch did you serve in? A: I was in the Army Reserve and was recalled to Active Duty in 1968. I went through Army Flight School in January 1969, and served in Vietnam from November 1969 to November 1970. I served a second tour from February 1971 to February 1972. I flew helicopters and fixed wings.

Q: After the Army, where did you work? A: I worked at Capital Airways from 1974 to 1977. After that, I was hired by Air Cal, which then became Air California, which was then bought by American Airlines.

Q: How long were you with American? A: I retired from American in 2007 when I hit the mandatory age of 60. Thirty days later, it changed to 65.

Q: You said you almost didn’t make it to retirement. Tell us about that. A: I had a medical condition (genetic kidney disease) that was discovered in my 50s. My kidney function dropped to 20 percent. I had a transplant and got my medical back less than four months later. I have my wife to thank for saving my life.

Q: How long have you been married? A: 44 years

Q: Do you have any children? A: Yes, three. Britt (43), Heather (42) and Andrew (29). I also have seven grandkids.

Q: Your wife was in the industry for a time as well. What did she do? A: She was a flight attendant for about 10 years.

Q: You’re known for pulling pranks. Has anyone gotten you back? A: Yes, my wife got me back good for a prank I pulled on another flight attendant. I was meeting her at the hotel because we were flying together the next morning. She was running late and I was wondering why. She arrived about an hour late and said there was a delay. She was on the same flight as the flight attendant I pulled the prank on so while I was waiting for her to meet me, they sewed my pant legs and coat arms shut. The next morning when I went to put on the pants and jacket, I discovered what they had been doing when I tried to put them on and couldn’t.

Q: After retiring from American, what did you do? A: I flew in India, then Fiji (with Air Pacific), goofed off for a year, went to Bangladesh as a chief pilot for 16 months and flew 767s, goofed off for another year and then got a contract to fly for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement handling deportation flights.

Q: When did you come to PSA Airlines? A: I came to PSA in October 2014.

Q: What do you like most about working here? A: The people; we have so much fun. I like being an integral part to these guys’ careers – the impact I’m getting to have. You touch their lives. It keeps me young. I don’t feel 68. The people running the show are doing a really good job. It’s fun to be part of this growth spurt.

Q: What advice do you give every pilot you train? A: It’s easy to become complacent. Continue to stay in the game. I know it can happen. I’ve seen it. Figure out your piece of the puzzle. It helps with preparation and makes everything flow that much easier.

Q: What’s your secret to longevity? A: This industry is fun. I could retire. I choose not to.