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

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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.