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Don Eikenberry
Name: Don Eikenberry
Company: N/A
Position: First Officer
Current Aircraft: Boeing 727
Age N/A
Country USA

Airline experience: yes
Corporate or fractional experience: no
Cargo experience: yes
Military, government, or law enforcement experience: no

Mentor profile:
My name is Don Eikenberry and I live near Spokane, WA. I currently work for the world’s largest package delivery company as a Boeing 727 first officer. This is my story….. I can only remember that I thought planes were cool….several things pop into mind. There was the doctor who went to my church who would take me up in his Cessna 182 on my birthdays….couldn’t even see over the dash but I remember how special that was and looked forward to it all year. Thank you Dr. Wayne Zook of Wenatchee, WA. There were the countless model planes I put together….and then destroyed in fiery crashes in the back yard. There were the 10 miles bike rides out to Pangborn Memorial Airport on my bike to watch planes in the summer. Also, my grandparents taking me there after church on Sundays….in high school I even got a job pumping gas at the airport. But most of all….it was the old Stearman crop dusters that would fly over my house early in the mornings working the orchard that bordered my house. I would run out and watch those big beasts fly right over my head…..and then the spray would fall down on my brain….and to this day, I’ve have a genetic predisposition to loving everything about aviation. I started taking flying lessons in 1978 when I was 17 years old. The Cessna 152’s I flew are still there doing the same thing. During the next three years I received my advanced ratings through CFI and got a two year degree from the local community college while living at home. In 1981, I transferred to ERAU-Prescott where I finished up my bachelors degree in aviation and picked up my CFII. There weren’t many jobs around and I never was the aggressive type that did a lot of networking….so I wandered around doing free lance instruction in a few places. A buddy got a job doing Grand Canyon tours in Boulder City, NV. They needed another pilot and wanted a CFI around for the occasional student….I got hired over the phone. I was quite excited to have my first real job. Flew six days a week and made $600 a month. The glamour ran out real fast and there weren’t a lot of jobs around in those days….especially if you didn’t have any multi time. For years I had thought about becoming an air traffic controller and pursued it half heartedly. In 1985, I got the call that would have me leave my short career as a pro-pilot and enter the exciting and well paying job of being an air traffic controller. First I had to get through the screening program in Oklahoma City. We spent three months learning non-radar air traffic control procedures and in the end had a few tests on which ones whole career rested. I was towards the top of my class but didn’t score high enough to pass….only four in my class of 20 did. Some of us did well enough to be offered jobs as air traffic assistants, though, and for lack of anything better to do, I took a job at LAX approach control. Air traffic assistants did the arrival ATIS, read IFR clearances to VFR towers, and sorted and organized the departure strips that had important information for the controllers. Most of the controllers weren’t pilots and their advice to me was to get back into flying if I could, so I quit the FAA after a year and a half to spot fish. I flew out of Hawthorne, CA in a Cessna 150 looking for swordfish around Catalina island. My training consisted of going up once with a guy who knew what a swordfish looked like….we flew around until we saw one and then went back. I made pretty good money doing this for a few months but it was seasonal work. I had gotten to the point in about four years where I had 2000 total hours of single engine time but only about 50 hours of multi….not quite enough to get a twin job. I knew a guy back home who had an Apache twin that would spilt the cost of gas and buzz around with me. Soon I had just enough multi time to get hired flying freight out of Scottsbluff, NE. in an Aero Commander 500. I made $1500 a month and was logging twin time….just what I needed. It didn’t take long and I had the magic 500 hours of multi time….got a bunch of interviews at the commuters. I took a job with SMB Stage Line flying Convair 640’s. The pay was good and the Convair was a huge airplane next to a metroliner, I made captain in a year and flew out of LAX and SFO to LAS on mail contracts….it was a great job. The company lost the LAS mail contracts to America West, though, and soon I was furloughed. I had over 1000 turbine, 400 PIC turbine, and a type rating in 1989. That was enough to get me interviews at Continental Airlines, World Airways, and the largest package delivery company in the world. Luckily, to my very complete surprise, I got the freight job in 1990. I started as a Boeing 727 flight engineer and after four years moved to the right seat as a first officer (co-pilot). I could have made captain in about the sixth year but decided to wait….and wait….and wait. Basically, seniority is everything in the airline business. I was making good money as a first officer and getting GREAT schedules. Time off and quality of life means a lot more to me than money…so I still haven’t found the motivation to go to the captain seat yet. Maybe next year….. I work about 10 days out of 28…that’s Monday through Friday every other week. Sometimes I fly between Houston and Dallas, Seattle and Vancouver, or Warsaw and Cologne. I’d rather not say exactly what I make but I exceeded 100K a year in about the seventh or eighth year. I live as a single guy on a lake near Spokane, WA. and fly my 172 seaplane for fun. Flying is actually a small part of my life. My favorite thing is working with young people. In my spare time, I do short term foster parenting, mentoring, camp counseling, church youth group stuff, and chill with middle and high school age kids. I especially enjoy it when I can combine my interests in youth with my interests in aviation. .

Favorite thing about flying:
Hummm....there are so many things. I guess it's the way no flight is ever the same. Even though I fly between the same city pairs a lot, I don't get bored on the short flights we do in the 727. It's interesting how the controllers will do something different each day, you will land on a different runway, or make a different type of approach. Also, you learn new things from the different pilots you fly with and wonder...why didn't I think of that.
Disadvatages of being a pilot:
I'll call my field airline/night freight. The biggest disadvantage would be the fact that you live about half your life on the road and sleep during the day. It's hard on the family life to be gone so much (why do you think I'm still single) and pilots have a rather high divorce rate. Working at night all the time takes it's have to shift between being a normal person on your week off and being a bat during the week you work. It may be true that a major airline pilot with some seniority only works about half the month. This sounds great, doesn't it? Guess what....during that time you are usually not at home and living out of a suitcase. The glamour wears off real quick.

What you would have done different:
I would get a degree in a non-aviation field. I like working with kids so it would have been cool to have a degree in child psychology, counseling, or education. I suggest that a person thinks of something else besides flying they would enjoy and get a degree that could lead to a full or part-time career in that field. Aviation can be a part-time job....sometimes by choice and sometimes not by would be nice to have the education to pursue something else besides flying.
Advice to aspiring pilots:
Don't get married....hehe. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it....don't let anyone stop you.
Problems encounterd along the way:
Getting qualified for the job. It takes years of hard work and then there are no guarantees. Some guys hit the majors five years after college....others it takes 15...some never make it. An awful lot of luck is involved and it hardly seems fair when your luck is bad....but that's just the way it is. It's really not possible to take shortcuts or make yourself lucky. It just takes a lot of hard work and faith that your time will come.

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