Adam Walsh is one of those pilots who never really considered the airlines as a career option. As a captain of a Pilatus PC-12 single-engine turboprop for fractional ownership provider Alpha Flying (Plane Sense to its customers), every day that Walsh flies is different. But, he says, "If I moved to the airlines I would have to take a drastic pay cut, deal with flying the same routes on old equipment, deal with bidding a schedule, and be in a constant worry about the status of my job."
On a typical day Walsh might pick up a passenger in Miami or New York, drop him off at a private grass strip anywhere in the country (or the Bahamas, Canada, or Mexico), and turn around and do it again. "Accessing these small airports and taking our passengers where they want to go, not where the airplane is limited, is what we do best," he says.
Alpha currently operates the largest PC-12 fleet in the world, and its future looks bright. Current plans call for the company to purchase a number of Grob's new spn light jet, expected to be delivered late this year. That means Walsh will likely be a jet captain by the time he hits 30. Not bad for someone who was hired only a few years ago with between 600 and 700 hours' total time.
Most of his flight time before Alpha came as a student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. "ERAU helped me obtain the knowledge for all the technical information that is nice to know," he said. Other than that, it was searching for anything he could get. "Prior to [Alpha] I did a little flight instructing, but mostly just tried to jump in an airplane anytime I wanted to go anywhere." Coincidentally, Walsh didn't use his ERAU contacts to land the job, as many graduates do. For him, it was persistence that paid off. He often jokes that the chief pilot granted him an interview just so he would stop calling.
Although his experience at Alpha could certainly take him to flight departments with continent-bounding jets, Walsh's goal is simple. "To get rich and retire young."
Ian J. Twombly is an AOPA Flight Training associate editor. He is a commercial pilot and a certificated flight instructor.