Alumni Career Spotlight: Ralph Wainwright Jr.

Ralph Wainwright, DB 2010

Ralph Wainwright is a May 2010 Aeronautical Science graduate.  As a student at Embry-Riddle, Ralph did everything right. He held leadership roles, was a member of the Eagles Flight Team, volunteered, participated in several internships, kept his grades up, and worked as a flight instructor to build his time. It came as no surprise that less than a year after graduation, Ralph landed a position as a First Officer for Air Wisconsin Airlines flying the CRJ-200.

Can you share how your Flight Operations internship with Continental Airlines assisted in the progression of your pilot career?

Looking back to the Spring of 2009, the Continental Airlines internship was the best career-related decision I ever made. I was fortunate enough to intern in the Newark Airport Chief Pilot’s Office and work for the Chief Pilot of Continental’s Newark hub. My experience included FMS (flight management system) training, the high altitude chamber, various tours of numerous facilities in the aviation industry (including Boeing), and 24 hours of full motion simulator time in the 737. This internship gave me a firsthand look at the industry, as I was able to speak with many pilots on a daily basis. This was important because it validated my childhood dream to one day become an airline pilot. Along with networking and technical skills, the most important asset this internship provided me with was the ability to be granted an interview with the MINIMUM flight time required for a pilot position at Continental (which is now United).

In such a competitive industry with thousands of qualified applicants and a limited number of pilot slots, I cannot stress how important this internship can be. To put it simply, this internship is the difference in making it to a major airline at 30-35 years old versus the age of 25 (or even younger!). Be prepared to work hard during an internship, but also keep in mind that it is basically a 3-4 month interview and, should you succeed, it will certainly pay off in the end. To put the question into perspective, I am currently 22 years old in the right seat of the CRJ-200 jet, and with United Airlines forecast to hire within the next 12 months, the internship has put me in a fantastic position to eventually join United.

How has your Embry-Riddle education enhanced your position as a first officer?

Embry-Riddle provided me with an extremely well-rounded education to meet and exceed the job requirements of my first officer position. Because of the structured curriculum at ERAU, there were many important topics that had already been covered in class before I had ever stepped foot into the airline industry. These were topics that were new to most new-hire pilots such as Crew Resource Management (CRM) and Flight Management Systems (FMS), along with many others. The education provided at ERAU was extremely in-depth to the point where there were many important topics that were not even covered by airline training. This included in-depth aerodynamics, knowledge of the mechanics and components of jet engines, and numerous air traffic control classes and labs. This list was endless and ultimately set the Embry-Riddle student apart from everyone else. Flight training provided at ERAU was second to none, and having instructed/been a student at numerous flight schools, the level of safety and quality of training is incomparable to all but the airlines. Aside from this, you will find that ERAU can open many doors for your future if you work hard.

What advice would you provide to a pilot who will be graduating in the near future?

This is a really exciting time for pilots, especially those pilots in the making who are attending ERAU at the moment or will be within the next few years. Major airlines will be opening up their doors in about 12 months to hundreds and eventually thousands of pilots to replace those who must retire due to the mandatory retirement age of 65. It is important to have a plan to make sure you are in the right position to meet your goals and work for the company you want.

Always carry yourself professionally and presentably. You never know who you will meet and where. There have been many times where I have run into various people in unexpected locations (such as an airport, restaurant, etc.) who have helped my career. Opportunities can present themselves when you least expect it. It also may not hurt to always keep a resume or business card on you. Keep your resume updated constantly (I’d say about every 100 hours or so) including your logbook if you are a flight instructor. Keep an open mind when apply for jobs and going on interviews. The last time I was interviewed, I was only given a few days’ notice and I was extremely skeptical about receiving this job. I had already seen a few of my peers turned down for the position who were more qualified than I was, and it got to the point where I had considered turning down the interview in its entirety to prepare for another one I was scheduled for only a few days after. However, this was truly the job I wanted, and I had all my paperwork all ready to go so I took the chance. It certainly paid off because over a year later, I am still flying the CRJ-200 for Air Wisconsin Airlines, and I am really glad I went on the interview! Stay in touch with as many people as you can (and be friendly with them too!) because you never know who will be that  helping hand in landing you a job. When you do achieve your dream job or hopefully something close to it, please remember to be humble about your ERAU education. Your skills will speak for themselves so when you safely land your airplane during a snowstorm on a short runway in windy conditions, don’t boast about it! That will make you well-liked among your co-workers. Always be honest so…if you mess up…fess up! That is the path of least resistance of getting through a situation. It is a great time to be a pilot at ERAU so work hard now, and it will certainly pay off later!

What three traits or skills have made you the most successful in your career?

Perseverance: Since I was 3 years old watching airplanes with my parents at Newark Airport, I have always wanted to be an airline pilot. That dream has never left my sights since that day. Determination is key and if you want something bad enough, you must work hard for it. I never let anything get in my way of my goal since I started ERAU, and good decisions were a must in order to get here. I was really anxious to achieve my dream, so I put in an extra effort by giving up a few weekends to prepare for something important such as a test or check ride. Instead of taking the summers off, I spent my time more constructively by taking extra classes and working on my next flight rating. As a result, I was able to graduate a full year early and earned my Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Science in 3 years. By managing my time effectively and efficiently, I was able to accomplish my goals in a shorter time period. My perseverance was the motivating factor to my success at Embry-Riddle.

Ability to work efficiently with other people: No matter what job you are in, being able to adapt to the work environment (which is extremely dynamic in aviation) and the people in it will make tasks easier to accomplish. Everyone has different insights and personalities, so it is important to accept everyone for who they are.

Attitude: Being arrogant with a “know it all” attitude will not get you anywhere in an airplane, especially with the people with whom you constantly work. I am fully confident in what I know, but I am always open to learning new things everyday. Taking your bad mood out on the world solves nothing, so I like to treat people the way I would like to be treated.

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