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Donald Thomson
Name: Donald Thomson
Company: Inter-State Aviation
Position: Flight Instructor
Current Aircraft: Cessna's
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 have loved airplanes for as long as I can remember. My entire life, I have drawn them, built them out of legos, read books about them, and had a field day anytime I saw a real one. I have always known that I wanted to be involved with aviation, and that I wanted to fly airplanes, though I wasn't sure what career I wanted until Middle School. At that time, I was assigned a project of finding careers that I was interested in. And it was at that time that I knew that I wanted to fly airplanes for a living. I graduated from high school in 1998, and started school at the Prescott campus of Embry Riddle that following fall. I graduated from Embry Riddle in December of 2001 with a bachelor's degree in aviation and with my commercial pilot's license and flight instructor certificates. Unfortunately, my timing didn't work out well for finding a job in the aviation industry, so I got a job with Safeway for a little while. In the spring of 2002, I moved back to Eastern Washington State (where I originally from) with the hope of having better luck with finding a job. I did have better luck! Shortly after moving back I got a job as a flight instructor with Inter-State Aviation in Pullman, WA. Since that time I have accumulated about 1,000 hours of flight time as an instructor. About six months into the job, I acquired the additional job title of being a Part 135 Charter Pilot. The charter side of things has a wide variety of flights. I have done some backcountry flying into Idaho for fish samples, I have carried a wide variety of passengers (ranging from hunters to the president of Washington State University). Most of my charter flying consists of flying boxes around for UPS. I will soon be working on my multi-engine instructor rating and will probably be getting my ATP in about 3 months. I am at a crossroads right now (mainly decided how to go after the vaunted multi-engine time). Deciding between moving onto a cargo carrier or staying with my current employer and fighting over table scraps for photo work in a seneca or the possibility of flying a C337 as a contractor to the forest service.

Favorite thing about flying:
Having my office be above a field of fog, or moving through the mountain valleys of Idaho. Getting to see everyday what others wait to see only a couple of times in their lives.
Disadvatages of being a pilot:
DISADVANTAGES Long hours. I typically work six 10-12 hour days a week. Though the pay will improve, working as a flight instructor and charter pilot pays very little.

What you would have done different:
Get a degree in a non-aviation field. I could have skipped working for Safeway.
Advice to aspiring pilots:
Be willing to stick through it. The industry is very cyclical and it can be hard to stay in it during the down times.
Problems encounterd along the way:
Paying for the initial training can be quite daunting. Work on finding funding before ever beginning (Key Bank provides aviation loans if anyone is interested). If you aren't staying single, make sure you tell your significant other what they are getting into before they get into it. Being a pilot can be a strain on a relationship (I have been very lucky in this regard though).

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