As the son of a flight test engineer at Edwards Air Force Base in California, Steve McMorrow was exposed to the cream of the crop as far as pilots were concerned. On many social occasions, he would listen in on pilots' discussions, firmly setting the hook for his future.
During college, McMorrow worked as a flight follower for Tradewinds Airlines, a Part 121 cargo operator. After earning his degree he completed his private pilot certificate. McMorrow then headed to the FlightSafety Academy in Vero Beach, Florida, to obtain a commercial certificate with multi-engine and instrument ratings.
In North Carolina, McMorrow earned a flight instructor certificate and got a job instructing at Piedmont Flight Center in Winston-Salem. To make ends meet, he also worked at Papa John's Pizza. After working 18 months as an instructor, Greensboro-based Atlantic Aero hired him to fly right seat in various turboprops in Part 135 operations.
"The best thing about working for Atlantic Aero was the pilots," says McMorrow. "You end up spending a lot of time with them, and it allowed me to learn a lot." For McMorrow, the toughest part about flying charter was the beeper. "It never went off when you wanted it to," he says.
Atlantic Coast Airlines hired McMorrow in 2000, and he quickly advanced through the ranks to the left seat of the Canadair RJ. ACA became Independence Air in 2004 and within 18 months was out of business. McMorrow saw this coming and took a job at Tradewinds again, this time as a first officer of an Airbus A300. Another quick upgrade found him in the left seat of the widebody jet heading to all parts of the globe.
McMorrow, however, had his sights set on flying for Southwest Airlines. To make himself marketable, he and his wife agreed that he would invest in a Boeing 737 type rating. With the ink barely dry on the type rating, McMorrow was called for an interview in September 2006. When he returned from the interview he found a furlough letter from Tradewinds. The wait for an answer from Southwest was excruciating, but good news followed, and McMorrow had an employment offer.
"I am extremely proud to be a part of this organization," says McMorrow. "Everyone has a stake in this company, and everyone takes it seriously. If you have a hard time caring for anyone or anything besides yourself, you won't fit in at Southwest." On his days off, McMorrow enjoys fishing, golf, and hanging out with his wife, Kim.
Pete Bedell is a Boeing 737 first officer for a major airline and contributor to AOPA Flight Training and AOPA Pilot magazines.