Pilot to Pilot podcast Episode 39 Featuring AJ Ramsey
What is going on Avination?! Welcome back to the Pilot to Pilot podcast episode #39! I can’t believe it has been 39 episodes already, time flies when you are having fun. Today’s episode is a big one, I talk with TMT pilot AJ Ramsey. Yes, TMT as in Floyd Money Mayweather’s pilot. I mean talk about one of the best jobs in aviation. You truly never know where you can wind up in this crazy industry.
In this episode AJ and I talk about.
- Why AJ wanted to become a pilot.
- How he held a job during his training.
- How AJ and I had the same first job.
- What AJ’s training was like.
- AJ talks about how you decide between a part 61 or part 141 flight school.
- How you are still going to end up being a good pilot no matter what flight school you choose.
- It all comes down to the type of person you are.
- It’s not a one size fits all type of business.
- How you build the foundation of the type of pilot you will be when are a CFI or building your hours.
- The importance of learning how to adapt to other flying personalities.
- Why AJ became a CFI.
- How there is no norm in aviation.
- Now is the time to get into aviation.
- AJ and I talk about
pilotlessairplanes and the future of aviation.
- Would a plane flying on automation be able to make the same choices as Sully did?
- What did AJ love about being a CFI.
- Most memorable experience as a flight instructor.
- AJ talks about students trying to kill him.
- What is one thing students struggle with on check rides?
- Why I didn’t become a flight instructor.
- AJ is a testament to why it is important to stay in touch with your flight instructors.
- Don’t let aviation become a job. Make sure you keep the passion.
- What it is like to fly a Gulfstream.
- Why you need to look at more than salary when choosing a job.
- How a lot of times a job pays more for a reason.
- Why AJ believes we have a lot in common with the medical field.
- How Aviation is all about delayed gratification.
- AJ talks about why it is important to enjoy each stage of the process.
- What it is like to fly for Floyd Money Mayweather.
- Rapid Fire questions with AJ
- How to get a job flying Floyd Mayweather.
Avination, thank you for listening to today’s episode. If you enjoyed it, please let me know! Email me at email@example.com or reach out to me on Instagram @pilottopilot. Also, make sure to check out the Pilot to Pilot patreon page.
In this industry, I always talk to those people that I envision had airplane models hanging from their ceiling and Top Gun posters up on their walls. They are the ones that always knew that they wanted to be a pilot. It was their dream from since they were in the womb. That is not me. I was that kid that wanted to be a veterinarian, but as I grew older I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to be because becoming a vet was way too much work. I was a slacker in high school and
My time in the Philippines sparked my interest in the military as I found out that my Grandfather entered the war in Ormoc, Leyte shortly after the naval battle. Upon returning home to the U.S. I promptly enlisted in the Army reserves as a truck driver because the training was the shortest and I would be finished in time for the next semester of college. To make a long story short, I finished my basic and advanced training as a private in the Army a full two weeks prior to September 11, 2001. On February 1, 2003, I was called to active duty to deploy to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. February 1, 2003, is a significant day in aviation history and one that I will always remember not only because of my military activation but because it was also the day that the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated on reentry. A short time later I found myself in the oppressive heat of Iraq driving trucks and realizing that life decisions had consequences. I did not pick a fun job. It paid good but it was not fun. While spending what seemed like endless days on that initial
Upon my return home from my adventures in Iraq I decided a career change to Army aviation was in my future but the Army had different plans. The recent uptick in improvised explosive devices had truck drivers scurrying like cockroaches for the exits. The Army stop
It was Super Bowl Sunday 2008 and I was at a party when a friend of mine called wondering if I knew anything about why there were chains on the doors to our flight school. Soon it came out that the company had gone bankrupt and the owner had skipped town leaving many students with school loans and no ratings to show for them. The economy was at the beginning of collapse and all the available CFI jobs dried up or were filled by more qualified candidates, many of which had come from the school I had just finished with. I was left there holding my newly minted
As I had just finished civilian flight school, the Army’s flight school wasn’t too difficult but it was another 18 months of school work. After the initial and instrument stages
I was assigned to C Company (DUSTOFF), 82 Combat Aviation Brigade and nine months later we deployed being the first unit to field the Army’s new HH-60M in the high mountainous terrain of Afghanistan. We would be assigned throughout the northeastern part of the country providing medevac support for all coalition forces and some civilians. We soon realized that the Army had developed an amazing platform for medical evacuations as long as those flights were at much lower altitudes than we were operating. It became clear that we would need to tear out most of the newly designed cabin interior to reduce weight by a few thousand pounds and that is what we did. Millions of dollars of new equipment became a junk pile in the corner of our hangar. After 12 of the most memorable months of my life as a DUSTOFF pilot
A year and a half after returning home from Afghanistan came a new set of orders to report to the medevac company in South Korea. I packed up my family that now included three kids and we prepared for our adventures on the other side of the
Flying in Korea was absolutely amazing. Flying medevac in Korea was a dream. While in this assignment I became an instructor pilot for the Army teaching new pilots coming from Ft. Rucker the ins and outs of flying in the mountains and cities that surrounded us. Learning to fly the southern edge of the demilitarized zone with North Korea by heart and teaching others how to not stray too far north was challenging and enjoyable and being able to look north on an almost daily basis into a country that few people will ever see was rewarding. My favorite medevac story from Korea comes from a call we received to pick up a patient at Osan Air Base. The patient had a lacerated spleen and was bleeding internally. He needed to be transferred to Seoul for surgery. We picked him up and he was doing fine. He must have been on some pretty good meds because he was more interested in taking selfies to document his first helicopter ride then worrying about his injury. As we departed Osan I asked the medic what the method of injury was and he proudly reminded me that Osan was having their annual dodgeball tournament that day. This poor soul had been on the receiving end of possibly the worst zinger that was thrown during the tournament. All I could think the whole flight was, “if you can dodge a wrench.”
Flying in Korea was amazing however I spent a lot of time away from home and I started wondering if continuing in the Army was still the right job for me. It’s amazing how priorities change with kids. With this realization, I started my job search in the civilian world to see what opportunities would be there for me. In 2016 I moved once again to Ft. Campbell, KY only this time the Army in its infinite wisdom took me away from my beloved medevac job and told me I needed to broaden my career into the Air Assault world. My education into this world would be with none other than the 101st Airborne Division. My wife and I decided to give the 101st a year of our time to decide whether we would stay in the Army or go our separate ways. During that time I attended an expo in Las Vegas to search for a civilian job and was very disappointed in the salaries that helicopter companies were paying out. I could not see being able to move from my current pay in the military with all its benefits to the low wages that civilian professional helicopter pilots are receiving. I left the expo very disappointed.
Shortly after returning home from Vegas an opportunity arose due to the looming airline pilot shortage. It seems that the airlines were getting desperate enough to start recruiting amongst us lowly Army helo pilots. Their Airforce pool was drying up. Flying fixed-wing aircraft was always something that I wanted to try however I was still paying off debts from my civilian helicopter flight school so there was no way I was going pay for another flight school. About this same time the Army deemed me fit to promote me to the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 3 but in February 2017 I accepted a job at Envoy Airlines with an agreement that they would pay for my fixed wing training in return for a few years of my life. I turned down my promotion and in May of that same year
After a few weeks at home, I kissed my family
In May I went through the ATP course and a few weeks later almost one year from leaving active duty I started my job at Envoy Airlines. I continue to fly Blackhawks for the Utah National Guard and at the time of writing this
It has been an absolutely crazy ride and if you had asked me 20 years ago where I would be I would have never thought that my life would take me to aviation. If you had asked me 10 years ago where I would be I would have never dreamed I would be an airline pilot. It is funny where the world takes us and sometimes you just have to ride the wave the world gives you. I’m just lucky and glad that it has put me in the place that I am now. I can’t wait to see what the next 20 years
My earliest memory of Aviation was at around the age of 4, I was walking down the street with my Dad and I saw something flying overhead and asked my Dad what it was, he told me it was a plane. When I asked where it was going, he said could be anywhere in the world. It left my young self quite intrigued.
It wasn’t until 10 years later, just before my 14th birthday, that I actually flew on a plane for the first time. Virgin Blue (now Virgin Australia) flight DJ512, from Sydney to Coolangatta (Gold Coast), Boeing 737-800 for a family holiday. I can remember how extremely excited I was as I had always loved Aviation since I was a kid and now finally got to fly in a plane myself. I can distinctly remember sitting in the window seat, feeling that acceleration as we were rolling down the runway, then finally leaving the ground and launching into the sky, I was hooked and knew by then there was nowhere else I’d rather be.
For Christmas 2007, I was lucky enough to get a brand new Toshiba laptop, a copy of Microsoft Flight Simulator X and a Logitech joystick. I was ecstatic! After ripping through all of the packaging I installed FSX and finally found out what it was like to “Fly” for the first time. I loaded up a Boeing 737-800 on the runway at Sydney (YSSY) and attempted to re-enact my previous first flight a couple of months before. Needless to say, I stalled the aircraft after taking off and crashed into the ground. I knew I had some work to do!
In the years ahead, I started to learn a lot more about flight, trying to understand not only how everything worked, but why behind things as well. Before long, I was flying everything from a Cessna 172 to a Boeing 747-400, tearing up the virtual skies on VATSIM (apologies to any controllers and fellow pilots who had to deal with my “flying” in the early years haha!). Once I really started to understand how flying an aircraft worked, I began joining different virtual airlines from around the world (using VATSIM). Here, I met fellow flight sim enthusiasts from different countries, some of which I have now become actual friends with and have actually flown together in real life! Never discount the power of networking, even over something such as online Flight Simulator flying, you never know who you will meet and relationships that can be formed from it.
I Spoke to a careers adviser in the 10th grade as I wanted some advice on the pathways to becoming a pilot. The advisor basically told me that becoming a pilot was not a great career choice and I should consider another option. Ignoring that “advice”, I decided that I should keep focusing on how I would achieve my dreams and never lose sight of the goal of becoming a Commercial Pilot, regardless of what people tell me.
For my 18th birthday, I received a voucher from my dads partner (now wife) for a 30 minute trial flight in a Citabria out of Camden Airport (YSCN), near Sydney. I still remember the flight vividly, being the first time I had ever been in a light aircraft and was amazed at how much fun it was to be freely flying around the areas where I had lived all my life at 2000ft, seeing so many cool things. I knew then there was nothing else I’d rather do with my life but become a Commercial Pilot. To this day, I haven’t flown in another taildragger, however, I am open to the idea!
At the end of high school in 2011, I got a job in a bank to earn some money and began flight training out of Bankstown Airport (YSBK) in Sydney, Australia, at the beginning of 2012. My first flight was in a Piper Archer, registration VH-NRZ and it felt incredible to be in control of an aircraft and how much fun this could potentially be as a career. Due to finances, I had enough money to do one flight a week in a Piper Warrior, but soon realised that it would take me forever to make any progress and I was forgetting things due to the distance between lessons and not having a lot of time to study at night.
Towards the end of that year, the Australian Government introduced a loan program that covered the cost of flight training, which would then be paid back upon employment. Even though the debt would have been around the 100k mark, I begged and convinced my dad that this is what I wanted to do with my life and that banking really wasn’t for me. After much hesitation, he gave me his blessing to move to Adelaide, Australia to study and fly out of Parafield Airport (YPPF), as at the time that’s where the only school was where loans had been approved for a flight school.
In March 2013, I moved to Adelaide and began my full time studies towards attaining a Commercial Pilot Licence. Unfortunately, the school was what I considered a pilot factory who trained for both major Airlines as well as Australian loan students and the latter I felt were not the priority. Training in the Tobago TB10, I enjoyed the aircraft (even if it glides like a brick!) and the different scenery to Sydney, but the school didn’t recognise my previous experience, which meant essentially having to start again, even with 35 hours under my belt. To me, the school felt disorganised, with all priority for aircraft rental and instructors given to the airline cadets, which often meant the doubling up of flights on a single day to get hours in and large breaks between flight days as a result.
After about 3 months, due to a combination of family issues and unhappiness with the training that I was receiving, I elected to leave the course and returned to Sydney, with my future as a pilot up in the air.
I didn’t fly again for nearly 3 years. During that time, a couple of months after leaving the school in Adelaide, I got a job with a large technology company on the retail side, whom I still work for today and thoroughly enjoy. My brother was already working for them at the time and he said it wasn’t a bad place to work, so I applied and was offered a position within a couple of weeks.
I remember feeling pretty miserable, just wishing I was back in the air again. In 2014, I had a family tragedy involving my mother and decided not to continue my flight training until such a time I was mentally, emotionally and financially ready to commit to my goals again. I never gave up hope and knew that I would return when I was ready.
In January 2016, I started flying out of Bankstown Airport (YSBK) again towards achieving my PPL,
I felt immense satisfaction from having finally seen the results of my training in the form of a PPL, but I knew that achieving my next goal of becoming a Commercial Pilot would be a tough challenge, but one I was willing to give my all to achieve.
After PPL training, I commenced my hour building for my CPL (200 hour course), as well as complete my 7 Australian CPL exams. I failed my first exam (meteorology) by one mark, which was a hard pill to swallow, but taught me to not be too confident and cocky heading into exams because it could turn around and bite you. I took some time to regroup, relax and study. I re-attempted the exam a couple weeks later and got 95%. I was on my way. One down, six to go!
Between September 2016 and September 2017, I passed 7 CPL exams (Meteorology, Navigation, Performance and Planning, Aerodynamics, Aircraft General Knowledge, Air Law and Human Factors). For me, trying to study for and scheduling exams around my
Also during this time, I completed all of my command hour building, the highlight being a 2 week trip in a 1965 Cessna 182H along the east coast of Australia, then through Central Australia to South Australia (back to Parafield!) and returning through regional New South Wales. My flight came to a total of 30 hours and was an
My vacuum pump failed 15 minutes into the start of the trip (which for VFR flight I was legally allowed to continue without) and went for a further 15 hours without use of an Artificial Horizon or a Directional Gyro, until I took the plane into a maintenance shop in Longreach, Australia (the birthplace of Qantas) for a 50 hour oil change and to get the vacuum pump fixed. After that, I was again on my way with all instruments serviceable.
I Had multiple weather issues along the way which required quick thinking to avoid IMC. One particular example was after stopping at Broken Hill (YBHI) for avgas, I noted the weather, which showed that there were storms and heavy rain predicted for the following 3 days, but that the path down to Parafield (YPPF) looked pretty clear for the remainder of that day. Instead of overnighting at Broken Hill, I elected to continue on to Parafield to ensure I wouldn’t get stuck. After departing and crossing the New South Wales/South Australia border, I could see in the distance some isolated cells forming around the areas to the left and right of my path. I revisited my weather briefing for the area and there was no information regarding bad weather ahead. After looking at my map and revising my previously chosen alternates, I elected to continue but had a plan in place in the event I had to turn around and land somewhere quickly. After continuing on I passed the previously seen cells. With clear skies ahead, I looked behind around 15 minutes later to find the skies completely black and those cells converged with each other. I will always tell pilots who plan to do a similar trip to make sure you have suitable alternates and escape routes available when flying
After completing my hours and exams, I
I had a pre licence check-ride in December 2017, which I elected to perform after being quite sick the previous week. In hindsight, it was a bad idea because it was hot, turbulent and windy and I didn’t perform to the high standards that I usually set for myself. I performed the pre license check-ride again in February 2018 and passed, which meant that I was ready for the big one.
The CPL check-ride was booked for March 2018, but was rescheduled 3 times due to weather. I attempted the flight at end of March 2018, but unfortunately failed the first time, I got lost trying to find a tiny town in an area I was unfamiliar with. About a week later and some very careful flight planning and solo flights to familiarise myself with those areas, I attempted the check-ride again and passed. It was one of the hardest tests I think I will ever do in my life, with lots of challenges thrown my way over the 3.5 hours of flying.
After 6 years, 4 flight schools, approximately 230 hours and countless hours playing Flight Simulator, I finally became a Commercial Pilot. It has so far been an incredibly crazy journey in Aviation for me, full of wonderful and not so wonderful experiences, however
I’ll be competing my Multi Engine and Instrument Ratings in October 2018, training in the mighty Baron BE55. From there, I look forward to the journey ahead!