Ming Tran, first officer, Piedmont Airlines
Ming Tran was first inspired to fly when she rode on a vacation flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, Vietnam, in 2003. Now she's a recently hired first officer at Piedmont Airlines training to fly the de Havilland Dash 8 turboprop. Tran was hired with fewer than 400 hours' total time.
Tran returned to the United States and became a flight attendant for Frontier Airlines in October 2005. "The opportunity to converse with airline pilots and become inspired by them is what led me to where I am today," said Tran. She took an introductory flight in November 2005, and the hook was set.
Tran enrolled in the Fast Track Private Pilot course at Airline Transport Professionals (ATP) in Atlanta. From student to teacher, Tran quickly became an instructor at ATP. To prepare for that interview, she studied the pilot's operating handbook for the Piper Seminole, the FAR/AIM, Jeppesen charts, and the Instrument Flying Handbook. She also sought out time in a Seminole flight training device to refine her instrument skills. At ATP, Tran was flying an average of five hours a day. "It was exhausting, but rewarding and fun," she said.
To land the Piedmont job, Tran studied the material for the airline transport pilot knowledge test, Jeppesen en route and approach charts, and the FARs for flight crew. She also found time in a Frasca FTD to keep her instrument skills sharp. Tran is now in the midst of training at Piedmont.
Of her new job, Tran says she enjoys meeting new people and hearing the stories of how her colleagues have landed where they are. "Learning the Dash 8 is challenging and exciting," she said. "I look forward to flying it."
On the downside, Tran says she is constantly moving, and it's hard to keep up with family and friends. "Fortunately, technology has quelled this problem significantly. You learn to build and maintain relationships via the phone, text messaging, and e-mail," said Tran.
For other pilots thinking of taking the plunge, Tran recommends going for it. "It's the best decision I've ever made. For the first time in my life I can say that I love what I do and look forward to every day. I would tell anyone considering this career path to not let anyone tell you that you can't do it."
As this is written, Tran had only spent a few weeks in training at Piedmont, but her experience was rewarding. "The training staff is top-notch. It's a great place to be."
Pete Bedell is a Boeing 737 first officer for a major airline and contributor to AOPA Flight Training and AOPA Pilot magazines.