Have you ever dreamed of having a job where you get to do what you love and get to travel all over the world? How about the dream of being able to fly? I’d like to introduce you to Amy Voss: a pilot who, because of a fear that she had, decided to try flying and ended up having a career most people only dream about. Amy is a perfect example of the fact that, with some hard work, we can have a career that we love as well.
She has a passion for what she does, and wants others to find that same thing for themselves. Aviation has long been seen as something that only the rich, or those who go into the military, can really afford to pursue, but, as you will see, there’s help out there to get your pilot’s license. There are also a ton of resources available to those who want to learn more about all of the different career paths they can take with a pilot’s license. Once you really dive into it, you’ll see that flying may not be such a far-fetched dream after all.
(Original interview was posted in May 2020)
1) Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do for a living.
I work for an aircraft manufacturer, Cirrus Aircraft. My company builds luxury personal small jets and small propeller airplanes which are all equipped with a parachute that can safely land the entire airplane in the event of an issue like the pilot becoming incapacitated. My job at Cirrus is to oversee a network of flight schools who teach in and rent Cirrus airplanes to make sure that they are operating in accordance with our standard procedures. Outside of flying, I love endurance sports, animals and going to baseball games in the summer.
2) When did you start flying, and why?
I started flying when I lived in Savannah, GA in 2010 and was thinking about what to do with my life–I had graduated college and was just bartending. I was actually afraid of flying so I thought I would take a lesson and learn more about it to help me get over my fears. I ended up loving it and it became my career!
3) When you did your solo flight (flying by yourself for the very first time) to get your pilot’s license, what did that feel like?
I remember being nervous that I wouldn’t do something in the right order, but also knowing that it was up to me to catch my own mistakes and make my own corrections. When flying, you have to be able to respond to things like the wind drift and correct small errors with fluid adjustments. Knowing I had the skills to recognize and make those corrections was so empowering!
4) What do you love most about your job?
I love that I get to work with incredible people every day. Cirrus Aircraft has allowed me to meet super people within the company but also, the accounts I manage are all incredibly talented business people and aviators who have challenged me consistently to be better, more informed, more nimble and creative.
5) You get to travel all over the world to do the work that you do, what is your favorite place that you’ve been so far, and why?
For work I cover the eastern US and Canada, Asia and Australia. The best place I’ve been for work is probably either Perth, Western Australia or Hobart, Tasmania–the little island south of Melbourne, Australia. Both places were full of art, great food and coffee and some of the most beautiful seascapes I’ve seen. Plus, I had never been into the Indian Ocean before going to Perth! That was cool.
6) What is the hardest thing about having a job like yours?
Time management! I’m constantly trying to balance how much I travel and how much I’m home, most of the time being home loses so, while this quarantine has been very challenging, it has also been an incredible gift to spend so much time with my partner and our dog at home. He’s incredibly patient and understanding but after 3 years of never being home for more than 2 weeks at a time, we were both excited about having a little bit of a break from the chaos of constant travel.
7) Your job sound like one of those where people say, “it must be nice” a lot. How do you react to those people?
The truth is that it IS nice!! I love my job and couldn’t have created a better fit for my personal or professional goals. Sure, it can be challenging to spend nights away from home or deal with accounts who are not cooperating or hitting road blocks within our team, but those are normal parts of many jobs. I don’t ever deny that my job is wonderful, but I also make it a big point to boost other people up as well and always offer flights to people who are even a tiny bit interested in aviation.
8) I don’t think that people realize how many different jobs are available to someone who has a pilot’s license. They think, you can fly commercially and that’s it. What are some of the jobs that people could get, if they had a pilot’s license?
There are an insane number of jobs someone can get as a pilot. When I was going through training, I was told you could choose either military, airlines or corporate flying but in reality, you can do things like:
Manage a flight school or be a professional flight instructor
Professional pilot examiner
Work for the FAA or the Aviation Safety Administration
Work for an aviation association or magazine
Be a test pilot
Work in sales engineering
Fed-Ex or UPS or a smaller cargo company
Fly pipelines/aerial photography/sky diving
Be a recruiter for an airline
The key is to think outside the box and think about jobs that include being a pilot but don’t have flying as the main component, that’s where the magic happened for me.
9) Becoming a pilot is often seen as something that only “rich” people can do. What would you say to someone who believes this way?
There is no denying the expense associated with flying, but there are many entry points and easy ways to offset the costs. Studying at home, increasing the frequency with which you fly, buying a small airplane to do your training in (really not that expensive, a friend of mine just bought an airplane for about $30,000), applying for a grant or scholarship (there is over 6 million dollars of scholarship money per year for aviation!) or some schools work with loan providers and the GI bill. The best thing to do would be to ask a as questions as you can–call your local flight schools, find out who the pilot examiners are in your area and ask them for references, hang out around the small airports and get involved in aviation groups on FB. YouTube is also an unbelievable resource, there is a huge amount of free aviation content.
10) Are there programs out there to help pay for lessons?
There are thousands of scholarships available annually and vary in dollar amount and duration. (Many of them are available to people of any age) Personally, I bartended to put myself through my Private Pilot training.
11) What was it like to be a flight instructor?
Hard, rewarding, exhausting, fun and above all, educational. I learned a million times more from my students than I ever did from my instructors.
12) How do flight lessons generally work?
Gosh, this is a really hard question to answer because there is so much to it. Typically, the student and instructor will be together in the airplane learning different maneuvers, operations, how to navigate and how to handle emergency procedures. Each student has a different learning style so it is important to accommodate that but usually, the instructor will demonstrate something that the student will then do and continue to practice until they are within certain ‘tolerances’ or parameters of altitude gain and loss, direction change and speed change. Once a certain set of skills are mastered and the student has demonstrated good landings consistently, the instructor might elect to send the student for their first solo flight meaning that they are the sole occupant and manipulator of the controls.
Once a student can operate the airplane safely during all required procedures, within tolerances, has passed their written exam and meets all the flight time criteria (total time, certain amounts of hours flying at night, solo and for stretches of more than 50 miles) the student can sit for their practical test which includes an oral exam and a practical exam with a representative from the FAA or a designated pilot examiner.
There is also a good amount of ‘ground school’ or classroom style learning that happens to cover theory, regulations and a bunch of other stuff. How all of this is combined is really the discretion of the instructor and flight school and what syllabus or learning curriculum they use. Personally, I leaned towards a style that included exposure to as many different environments as possible so typically we went on longer trips, explored more weather scenarios and did things like land at big airports to deal with heavy traffic and small airports where you had to pump your own gas. Those are the things that make flying unique and fun.
13) How important do you think it is for people to seek out, and do, what they love to do?
Wildly important! I think it is crazy how miserable people are 3/4 of their waking lives. Just like it is important to spend a lot of money on a good mattress, it is important to take the time to figure out what you want out of a job and not settle for anything less. I have had jobs that I hated, and I even hated flight instructing for a while because I was broke and had a terrible commute. But, I used skills built at those jobs and networked like crazy to get to a place where I’m professionally happy, everyone deserves to build that for themselves.
14) What is the best way for people to learn more about becoming a pilot, and to figure out if they may like it?
Take a discovery flight! Groupon might have some options available in your area for a great price or you can call around to your local flight schools to see what kinds of discovery experiences are available. If you can afford it, pay for the nicer airplane or longer experience which will allow you to spend more time in the air. Also, when you book your flight, ask for a more experienced instructor. Often, flight schools will give ‘disco’ flights to their newer instructors to help them build a client base. A more seasoned instructor be comfortable giving you more time at the controls and might even walk you through the take-off and landing.
If you want to see some of the amazing, fun photos that Amy has taken in her travels (and her adorable dog) or if you’d like to connect with her and learn more about what she does, you can find her on Instagram – @vossavoss – or on LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/amycvoss/
Amy is living proof that we can attain those things that we think are completely out of our reach, if we’re willing to work hard to get them.
Thank you, Amy, for sharing your love of aviation with us, and for expanding our ideas about the world of flight!!!