Danilo Dubon, NetJets
It's taken years, but Danilo Dubon has finally found a happy home at his current job as pilot in command of a Cessna Citation V Ultra for fractional operator NetJets. Having been through the ups and downs at two regional airlines, Dubon is enjoying more time at home with his family, something that was hard to do when he was a commuter pilot with a schedule that kept him on the road 20 days per month.
Dubon always knew he wanted to be a pilot. His first paying job in aviation was as a CFI for Ari Ben Aviator in Fort Pierce, Florida. After Dubon had amassed about 1,000 hours, American Eagle hired him in 2001 to fly ATR commuters out of San Juan, Puerto Rico. As a commuting pilot, Dubon had a 150-mile drive to Miami International followed by a flight to his San Juan base. "I could only hold 10 days off per month. I didn't see my family much," Dubon said.
After the September 2001 terrorist attacks, Dubon was furloughed from American Eagle. Ten months later, Atlantic Coast Airlines hired him as a first officer in the BAe Jetstream 41. Based at Washington-Dulles International Airport in Virginia, Dubon once again became a commuter who could only manage about 10 days off per month. In 2004, ACA broke ties with United Airlines and became Independence Air. "It was a very exciting time for all of us, transitioning from a regional carrier to our own airline," said Dubon. However, the rise in fuel prices and intense competition led to the demise of Independence Air, and Dubon was on the street again in January 2005.
As Dubon was driving home from Virginia, a friend who flew for NetJets called to check on him. "He told me to get my ATP [certificate] and send him my résumé," Dubon said. "Within a week I had my ATP and had sent my résumé to my friend and NetJets." A few weeks after that, Dubon had a job as a first officer in the Citation Ultra.
"I'm enjoying the best quality of life I've had since I started flying professionally," said Dubon. Being based at home and not having to commute is a huge improvement on quality of life. "I work a total of 18 days a month with a minimum of three days off between 'tours.'" His trips take him to a wide variety of airports, from those with short runways with minimal services in remote areas to the sprawling complexes he visited in his commuter pilot days. "I like the challenge, variety, and diversity of airports I get to experience."
Of his days at the regionals, Dubon doesn't miss the hectic schedules, low wages, and the commute. But he appreciates the invaluable experience that the regionals gave him. "Flying a turboprop in the busy Northeast Corridor, dealing with winter ops, and the busiest airports in the country was a good tool to sell myself during interviews," Dubon said.
Pete Bedell is a Boeing 737 first officer for a major airline and contributor to AOPA Flight Training and AOPA Pilot magazines.