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Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight: Captain John Piza Pinilla

January 10, 2023

Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight: Captain John Piza Pinilla

National Hispanic Heritage Month honors the cultures and contributions of both Hispanic and Latino Americans and their influence on the history, culture, and achievements of the United States. During this important observation, we are pleased to spotlight our team members who show how our different backgrounds contribute to The PSA Way.

Captain John Piza Pinilla moved to the U.S. from his native Colombia six years ago in pursuit of his American dream – to be a pilot at the largest airline in the world. John joined Colombia’s Air Force at age 16, serving as a pilot before retiring in 2006. He then transitioned to flying for a Latin American airline company. However, during his time as a pilot there, American’s wings caught his eye, eventually leading him to PSA.

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, John talked with us about his pilot journey, his experience at PSA, and how his Colombian culture goes with him everywhere he flies.

How did your love for aviation begin?

I’ve been dreaming about aviation and planes all my life. When I was a kid, I went to an amusement park, and it had an airplane ride for kids. I told my sister to ask my dad if we could go back to the planes. My father didn’t know what she was talking about, so he took us to the airport. I think I was five years old, and that was the first time I saw a real airplane – a Boeing 747. When I saw that, my life changed completely. I said okay, I’m going to be a pilot.

What is it about American Airlines that got your attention?

American flies from Miami to seven different destinations in my country. I used to see those airplanes all around. I flew for another company in Latin America, and I was curious because I could see the AA 737 parked next to my 737. So, I just felt that maybe I could achieve my goal and my dream to become a pilot for the biggest airline in the world.

What was it about PSA, specifically, that interested you?

I was researching other regionals and found out that the best work environment was at PSA. I have no regrets about that decision. PSA welcomed me since day one. I’m very grateful for that.

As a Hispanic pilot, do you feel you impact PSA’s culture of diversity and inclusion?

Absolutely. I’m very honored that PSA gave me the opportunity to fly here. You can see Hispanic people everywhere – on the ramps, as gate agents, and as flight attendants. Now we have a good presence in the cockpit as pilots that is growing. This company has a very nice culture of diversity, and I feel welcomed by everyone.

What are some Colombian traditions or customs you hold dear that you’ve brought with you to the U.S.?

Colombians are passionate about the things we like, and we demonstrate our passion – in this case, aviation. We are happy people. We like to smile, and I think I bring that here. I like making people laugh with silly jokes. I like for people to feel warm and feel welcomed. I like joy in the cockpit because that’s important. Unfortunately, when I was a First Officer in Latin America, I wasn’t treated very well, which was more of a cultural thing. So here, I try to bring nice things and treat people with respect. And maybe try to teach a Colombian word or two.

In the spirit of Hispanic Heritage Month, what advice would you give to someone who aspires to take a similar path to you and become a Captain?

I would say go for it and choose PSA. It is possible to achieve any dream. You have to work hard but dream big. We (Hispanics) can do great things. As a Hispanic, I can fly as a Captain here, though it’s not been easy. I can inspire other Hispanics and younger generations to achieve their dreams of becoming a pilot in the United States. It’s not only for the American people but for everyone. PSA is an airline that welcomes people from all heritages, not only Hispanics but all around the world, and they make us feel comfortable.

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