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Safety Publications/Articles

Professionally Speaking

From the flight line to the big time

A Diamond Evolution

The biggest myth in aviation is that flight instructing is a dead-end job.

Let me digress for a bit....

My friend Clyde just bought a Diamond C-1 Evolution. That's a two-place trainer, and that alone is out of the ordinary. Even more interesting is the fact that Clyde-who has a few thousand hours and is an experienced and qualified pilot with an instrument rating-can afford and has owned two Barons, a Mooney, a Bonanza, and myriad lesser airplanes. Neither his budget nor his piloting capabilities dictate a two-place trainer. He bought the Evolution because he wanted it, and therein lies a tale.

Way back in 1995 I flew the original Diamond Katana with CFI Matt Amundson. The little airplane fascinated me, and I urged Clyde to fly it with Matt. Clyde also fell in love with the airplane and said he'd "kinda like to have one someday."

Years flew by and, corny as it sounds, Clyde never forgot the little Diamond. Finally, just a few weeks ago he yielded to the urge and bought the later version.

That's enough about Clyde. Let's talk about Matt Amundson for a bit.

Matt got his ratings and his degree through the University of North Dakota's aerospace program. Surprisingly, UND ended up with a flight school in Huntsville, Alabama (that's a story in and of itself, but we'll tell it another time). Matt was young, eager, and enthusiastic, and he prospered. UND promoted him quickly to flight school manager, and then Diamond Aircraft hired him. He demonstrated the little Diamond literally from coast to coast, learned a lot, and attracted the attention of the New Piper Aircraft Company. Piper hired him to cover parts of South America and the Caribbean. Not bad for a fellow just a few years out of college.

Piper couldn't hold Matt either. When the airlines started hiring, there was Matt, with international experience, good references, and all the ratings. He was snapped right up and today is captain of a Canadair Regional Jet for Pinnacle Airlines.

Think of that. Matt went from college to airline jet captain in fewer than 10 years, and he had some great jobs on the way up. And it all started with the CFI.

How did Matt do it? It is a simple formula, first explained to me by the boss in my first job out of college, selling toothpaste for Procter & Gamble. "The way to get promoted to a better job with this company," he said, "is to do your present job very well."

Matt was not only a good CFI; he was exceptional. He was interested in the business side of aviation, he was enthusiastic, and he worked hard. He was above average in all areas, and people noticed. At every point, he had good references. I, for example, once wrote favorably of him in an aviation magazine, and when Piper asked me what I thought of him my answer was two words: "Grab him." That's not why they hired him, but it didn't hurt.

Matt represents but one such story. I could also tell you a similar story of Matt's father-in-law, Dave Naumann, who is head of a corporate jet flight department, or Paul Maupin, vice president in charge of aviation for a bank's jet fleet, or many others whose story is basically the same: The good CFI does not have a dead-end job, but has one of the strongest toeholds in the aviation industry.

Ralph Hood, an aviation speaker and writer, has been flying for more than 33 years and has amassed more than 3,000 hours of flight time. He is a multiengine commercial pilot with an instrument rating.

By Ralph Hood

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