First Airline Pilot Job Interview

An airline pilot gets his training and experience from the military, or pays for training at local flight schools. After obtaining the Commercial, Instrument, and Flight Instructor ratings, the privately trained pilot works as a Flight Instructor for a couple years to build up hours and experience necessary for the airlines.


I paid for my own training and worked as a Flight Instructor in Detroit, across the hangar from Zantop Airlines, a Cargo Airline that carried automobile parts.

After building up enough hours, I applied with Zantop who said they would be hiring soon. I told the flight school about making the application. Flight instructing is a normal stepping stone to reach the airlines, and the school was supportive.


One day I received a call from the Zantop Chief Pilot to come interview.

He asked many questions including:

Q: What are you looking for in a job?

A: I'm looking for job security.

Q: What do you mean job security?

A: I want to work year round without being layed off twice a year.


He said, You're Hired; Now here's what you need to do:

  • Go downstairs and get on the airplane that's getting ready to take you and other new hires to get your three take offs and landings.

  • Come back up here to get 2 hours of ground school

  • Tonight you'll report at 9:00 pm for an 11:00 flight to Saint Louis

I said: I have a student scheduled in 2 hours and can't do this today.

He said: Do you want the fricking job?

I said: Yes

He said: Then get your ass on that airplane or I won't hire you.

He was serious with his ultimatum, and I needed the job if I wanted to pursue my airline career. This was an important step on my way to getting hired by a major airline.

(Seven years later I was hired by Pan Am where I spent 28 years as an international airline pilot.)


I called one of my fellow flight instructors and arranged for him to take the student, and informed the school. They weren't happy, but they understood and remained supportive. I continued to work for them as a substitute for another year.


Zantop was owned by three brothers who worked very hard in the business and were tough as nails. They built the business from having five leased C-46 aircraft to owning a fleet of C-46's, DC 4's, DC 6's, and the Argosy AW650. (I made a belly landing on the AW650, and I'll talk about that in another blog) They expanded to become a large contractor for the Military, hauling cargo for the Logistics Air Command (Logair).


During the time I was studying flying, prior to joining Zantop, I was also working in the Detroit automobile factories, and as a musician playing for various bands in the area. I was not a vocalist or singer at that time. Once I was hired by Zantop, I had to quit the factory, but continue to work part time as a musician playing drums.

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