From Civil Engineer to Civil Aviator

For me, aviation was an inheritance, my dad was a corporate pilot flying a Lear 31 for a big shoe retailer with stores all over the country, he did that until he passed away in 2001. This was a huge blow to me, obviously, but it also motivated teenage me to step up and move on with my life. And so, as many other sons/daughters of pilots, I couldn’t even walk and I was already in a Learjet cockpit zooming at 41,000 feet. By the time I was 7 or 8 years old, I could name around 50 different airplanes (commercial and GA) by heart and was spending some summers at the airport moving boxes in the hangar storage, imitating the sound of starting engines and listening to ATC in the background.
When my father passed away I was 14 years old, about to finish junior high, and up to that day I was sure that I wanted to become a pilot, I wanted to fly more than anything in the world. After he passed I kind of reevaluated my life and examined what I could accomplish if I became a pilot or not. I really didn’t like some things about pilot life, for example, not being around in important dates like birthdays or anniversaries or soccer games; but on the other hand, it was the coolest thing ever to brag to my friends that my dad was a pilot. I remember we had a PC at home with Flight Sim 95 and a flight yoke where he started to teach me how to fly. He taught me about basic aerodynamics, why do planes fly, how to read a six pack and how to fly traffic patterns. That particular lesson, I remember, was a night when my parents had to go to a wedding, so he drew a pattern for me on a piece of paper and told me: “you fly for 30 seconds in this heading and then for 2 minutes on this heading and so on…” by the time my parents got back from the wedding at 1 or 2 in the morning, I was still doing traffic patterns, my dad was proud, but I believe my mom was pissed!
After my dad passed away I was stranded from aviation, only relying on sims to be able to keep practicing and on magazines to keep learning (internet was still just starting back then) So, by the time I had to make a choice about what I wanted to do after high school
I got a scholarship to one of the top universities in the country, and I decided to keep aviation as more of a hobby, and not a full-time career, and I became a civil engineer in 2010.
So, my first job was in the construction of a deep sewage tunnel in Mexico City, not glamorous at all. And also, not a place where I wanted to spend too much time. While I was there, I had the opportunity to get a diploma on Airport Engineering and Certification, and so I quit that job and went for it. After that, an opportunity came to work as an airport pavement specialist for 13 airports in Mexico that the company operated. As you might have noticed, my professional life again turned towards aviation, and the reason was simple, I wanted to be around airplanes, I told everyone who was with me “there’s nothing like the smell of jet fuel in the morning”. Every time I visited an airport it was really hard for me to concentrate when an airplane went by, and even more so if a Learjet came rolling by, I literally stopped cold on what I was doing and just looked at it, waved to the crew and thought to myself “is this close enough?” For a couple of months I was hit with the aviation bug again and wanted to drop everything to become a pilot, but again, that didn’t happen.
And so, after saving money for a couple of years I finally enrolled in a Flight School to get my Private Pilot’s License in 2014. Since I could only go to class and fly on Saturdays or Sundays, it took me a year to finish ground school, build the 40 hrs required for the check-ride and finally get my license in December 2015. On my first solo I was overflowing with emotion, I really struggled not to cry in flight, partly because I was fulfilling my dream of flight and also because I dedicated that flight to my dad, because, had he been there, I’m sure he would’ve been as close to the runway as he could with his handheld radio just following me through the pattern.
And then, for some other reasons, I left that job and moved back home to my mom’s house in 2016. This was the beginning of a flyless year where I was starting an airport pavement engineering firm and all of my resources went to that adventure, I still had the chance to be around airplanes while doing on-site projects, but, since I didn’t know anyone here who owned like a 172 or a Piper Arrow or Cherokee, flying just didn’t happen that year. In 2017 I moved to Mexico City for a project on the new airport, and there is a small private airfield called Atizapan, where I contacted a new flight school that owns a 172 and sure enough, I rented that airplane by the hour when I could. Actually, the owner of the flight school and I became good friends and I had the chance to go with him on charter flights in a Cessna 206 with the G1000 (which is AWESOME) and on local flights in a Piper Cherokee. But, again, I wondered “Is this close enough?” …… to some extent it was, I was pilot in command of an airplane and I felt like a million bucks.
And we come to the present, in early 2018, sadly the pavement engineering firm went south, I was drenched in debt and couldn’t allocate money for flight hours, realizing that is one of the most hurtful things I’ve been through. So, again, I moved back home and decided to, first, take care of my financial situation, and second, to start from scratch, but this time, I want to be part of the aviation business, to buy and sell GA airplanes, have a hangar for rent, an FBO, create a small air taxi service, sell parts and oils to workshops and flight schools, sell apparel and swag, anything. Here in Mexico, the civil aviation community is not as large and united as it is in the US, there are only a few municipal or regional airports to fly to without huge airport fees and regulations and it is, as everywhere else, quite expensive to fly.  I’m not saying I regret my career choice, I’m saying that, if you have aviation flowing in your veins, and if you keep looking up when airplanes fly-by and your #1 item in your bucket list is to go to Oshkosh Air Venture, then, you can’t ignore the calling, because, as it happened to me, even unconsciously, you’ll never be satisfied until you have that link between airplane and man.
I now take every chance I get to fly anything with wings, in hopes of one day to be able to buy an airplane of my own, for business or just to feel the rush of weekend flying. And also, I want to help GA grow in Mexico, have kids dream of becoming pilots and stop the terrible notion that aviation is unreachable except for the wealthy. I know airplanes, I feel them and I want to send a message to everyone that has ever felt even curious of flying that the first and last thing you need is passion, genuine, raw passion.
– José Guillermo Martín Medina
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