Alumni Career Spotlight: Ken Petschauer

Ken Petschauer is a 1991 Aeronautical Science and a 1993 Master of Aeronautical Science graduate from the Daytona Beach campus. Ken is now the E190 Fleet Captain at JetBlue Airways. Ken shares his experience as a pilot who has successfully been through several industry peaks and troughs.

You can meet Ken and ask him questions this week at the Alumni Industry Panel, to be held at 5:30pm on Thursday, November 3, 2011.

Ken Petschauer, DB 1991/1993

What has been the biggest highlight of your career so far?

The highlight of my career (so far) was being selected as the Fleet Captain of the E190 at JetBlue. This position allows me to use both my educational background and aviation experience to help the company operate a safe and efficient E190 fleet.  My position allows me to create procedures, train pilots, introduce new technology, interact with engineers, manufacturers, and the FAA and still fly the aircraft. The Fleet Captain position is proving to be very challenging and very rewarding.

How has the cyclical nature of the airline industry impacted you and how have you overcome it?

The cyclical nature of the airline industry has had a significant impact on my career. Initially, a “down” cycle in the industry caused significant furloughs which made finding a flying job very difficult upon my initial graduation from ERAU.  It was a future “up” cycle that occurred to provide the opportunity to be hired with Trans World Airlines (TWA) in 1996.  As this cycle continued, it allowed me to gain seniority quickly and fly larger equipment.  The cycle reversed again and led to my furlough in 2003 after the acquisition of TWA by American Airlines. The cycles continued and afforded me the opportunity to be hired by JetBlue in 2004 and once again gain seniority in a relatively quick manner.

The cycles will continue and are inevitable.  We have no influence on them and as such have no control of how or when they will affect us. The best way to endure these cycles is to have a solid background in both education and experience and to seize any and every opportunity to gain more of either.

 What qualities do you value in a first officer?

The most valuable qualities in a first officer would be the same qualities I look for in a Captain or Check Airman.  I could list several but will limit my answer to two for this blog.  A good first officer should be knowledgeable and confident (but not overconfident). Knowledgeable in the procedures of both the safe and efficient operation of the aircraft and the company procedures (Standard Operating Procedures) and confident enough to “speak up” should there be any question as to whether the aircraft is in , or about to be in, and undesired state.

 How has your Embry-Riddle degree opened doors for you?

My Embry-Riddle education has very definitely opened doors in my career.  I can think of two clear examples.

The first example was when I walked into a flight school looking for a flight instructor job.  I spoke with the Chief Pilot and was asked about my experience and where I completed my training.  I told him, “ERAU” and his next words were “you’re hired, we hire all of you guys”.

My next example was in my interview with TWA.  I had more than the minimum flight time to be hired but was significantly below the average flight time that the other candidates had.  I was also fortunate enough to be younger than most.  The first question asked of me was related to my ERAU MAS degree and why I chose to take that path, as it set me apart from the other candidates.  I have no doubt that my education had an impact in their hiring decision.

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