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Art Houston
Name: Art Houston
Company: East Coast Jets
Position: First Officer
Current Aircraft: Lear 35, 55
Age N/A
Country USA

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

Mentor profile:
I fall into a growing group of pilots referred to as "mid life career changers". Hindsight is always 20/20, and now I wish that I had pursued my love of flying as a career at a younger age. I flew with my father as a ten year old in a Piper Tri Pacer, an early tricycle gear airplane. In 1966, I entered VFMA, a military college prep school outside of Philadelphia. My father had been an RCAF navigator, and continued flying while I was in military school. I missed the opportunities that his involvement in CAP might have provided, and I looked at the things my dad did as being not "cool" enough. I went to NYU for computer science, film and television. Later, I worked as a railroad signalman (a technician type of position), a journalist, and a broadcaster. Unfulfilled, I began to look at the things I had enjoyed doing when I was younger for guidance. Having a hot rodding background from my teens, I began working on cars and trucks, accumulating four ASE master level certifications and thirty-three individual ASE test categories in less than ten years. While the work itself was interesting, the working conditions were noisy and dirty, and both co-workers and customers were under-educated, making meaningful conversation difficult at best. The biggest change occurred in 1994, when I became a Christian and began to attend a Bible church. There, I met a young man who worked as a flight instructor at the airport where I had flown with my father as a boy. I wanted to gain enough flying experience to fly for missionary work. As I began to train for my private license (and began logging my time, which I had never done with my father) I realized that this was what I should have been doing all along, the thing where I felt most alive, flying an airplane. While I continued to work as a Master Technician, I worked on my days off to attain all of the necessary ratings to begin my new career. In June of 2000, I left my job to work toward my flight instructor certificates full time. By November, I was working as an instructor at a nearby class D airport while I continued to fill contract technical writing assignments and voice overs for commercials and industrials. After September 11th, both student hours and rentals dropped off at our school, and I lost my instructor job in December. I sent out literally dozens of resumes looking for instructor work, as the many regionals were already furloughing pilots. My hope of working for Comair, already six months behind my original schedule, was effectively snuffed out. Too many highly qualified individuals were now candidates for the FO job I had been counting on. Time to change gears, again. One evening, I had stopped by the school and was listening to a friend's advice on how to continue. He worked as a corporate jet pilot, and advised me to continue sending out resumes, and to include charter (where I had some Navajo experience to offer), and night cargo operations. A man he knew stooped by to get some charts, and we all began talking. This guy knew some phone and fax numbers I could put to use for my resume spamming, and I took down the numbers, never thinking that anything would come of it. I made some calls, and sent out the faxes, along with maybe 100 emails with attachments to every conceivable charter and cargo outfit I could find. I pestered pilots on, and took every lead I could. I was PERSISTENT. A few months later, I was driving along and received a cell call from a man whose name that I didn't recognize. He had been one of the names given to me by that stranger buying charts! The next day, I had an interview to fly jets at a charter company. I was flying the next week. I credit these ingredients to this success: 1) Prayer. Philipians, 4:13 2) Persistence. God expects me to be a "good steward" of the abilities and gifts He has blessed me with. 3) Networking. I found out about this company's very EXISTANCE by a chance (really?) encounter with a friend of a friend at the school where I had been laid off. Had I been out partying or sitting home sulking about how much my life seemed unfair, I NEVER would have found out about this opportunity. This is one way, besides instructing, that I can give something back into aviation. Now, new pilot, how can I help YOU?

Favorite thing about flying:
Aside from the pleasure of accomplishment of a long term goal, I have the best "office view" of all. I'm doing what I love. That's hard to beat, maybe impossible to beat.
Disadvatages of being a pilot:
The biggest problems for most pilots are the shifting economic climate, which can cause long periods of unemployment, and the required time away from family and friends on long assignments. Flying can destroy marriages as easily as military service can. Since I am single, it isn't that big a problem for me.

What you would have done different:
I would take one of the offers I had to attend a service academy, either Air Force or Navy. No one knew that Viet Nam would end when it did, and we were under-supported and lacked a clear mandate to WIN. Because of this, I stayed away from the military as a career choice.
Advice to aspiring pilots:
Make out a game plan, research it for flaws, correct it, and work hard to make it a success.
Problems encounterd along the way:
Make certain that you have no physical or medical deficiencies that prevent you from attaining a First Class Medical certificate. Plan on at least a Bachelor's degree in something OTHER than aviation, so you have a skill to fall back on in lean times. Make certain you have the funding, or a realistic plan for funding to take you through to your instructor certificates. Fly two to three times per week to finish training sooner. This will save you money over the long run.

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