Alumni Career Spotlight: Chris Sarna

Chris Sarna, DB 1994

Christian Sarna, DB 1994

Christian Sarna, originally from Coal City, IL, has been an airline pilot for the last thirteen years. He attended ERAU’s Daytona Beach campus and graduated in 1994 with a degree in Aeronautical Science; he then spent several years afterwards as a flight instructor there as well. He has flown for Trans States Airlines, Comair, and JetBlue Airways, where he is currently a First Officer. Christian and his wife, Karen Magnussen-Sarna (DB, 1997/2004), met on ERAU’s yearbook staff and are both previous recipients of the ERAU President’s Safety Award.

How did you get where you are today?

Starting out as a full-time flight instructor and making $12,000 a year (at the time) requires a great deal of sacrifice. I only  reached my goal of a job with a major airline due to the support of my wife and family.

How has your Embry-Riddle degree helped you in the course of your career?

Any degree is nice to have, but a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University stands out on a resume.  Brand recognition goes a long way in the aviation industry.

What advice would you provide to a pilot who is getting ready to graduate and looking for work?

Network! I cannot stress enough the fact that aviation really is a small community and everyone knows each other…or at least, knows your friend, your former roommate, your former supervisor, former student, etc.  You will be asking your teachers, co-workers and flight students for letters of recommendation for various jobs, so stay positive and take names.

What are your plans for the future?

 I can’t wait to take may wife on a vacation to Middle Earth on Air New Zealand.


Alumni Career Spotlight: Michael Crowley

Michael Crowley, ERAU, DB Aeronautical Science 2009

Michael Crowley, DB 2009

Michael Crowley is a 2009 graduate of the Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Science program at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach Campus. Michael has a great passion for aviation, and if you ever meet him, the passion is unmistakable.

Michael is living his dream, through dedication and tenacity. Currently he is flying a Boeing 737 for Sky King Airlines out of Florida. Recently, he was promoted to Captain, a goal he has achieved by dedicating many hours of flying and completing a degree from ERAU.

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

There are many traits that lead someone to become the model professional pilot that everyone tries to emulate or become.  These traits are vast, and by all means I and all of the other career pilots out there are still learning, but there are a few in my opinion that are core values which allow someone to strive to be that professional, day in and day out.

Ability to continually learn from others.  Being a “know it all” or “cocky” in an airplane has gotten people killed more than once in aviation.  The ability to be confident and sure of your abilities and knowledge is definitely a trait that one must have, but more importantly the willingness to learn from others is key to a person’s success in this position.  To say that I know everything or something to that matter just because I’m a captain at 24 years old would be arrogant and ignorant.  If I am not learning from others until the last day I touch an airplane in my life, I’m definitely doing something wrong.

Crew Resource Management. The ability of a pilot to “use all available resources” is not just a phrase that we say over and over in aviation training with no real meaning.  I cannot reiterate this phrase and how important it really is.  When flying with my airline (or in any multi-crew environment), the prospective and knowledge of my fellow crew members (or possibly even passengers) is so important to my decision-making as a Captain. Their skills and abilities to think of a different solution to a problem or situation is critical to the successful outcome of any flight. Always be open and inviting to other peoples’ ideas and input. In a flying career, this process will probably save your life more than once.  Also, remember that even in a single-pilot situation you do have people to help you, for instance Air Traffic Control and others on the ground to help you through a given issue.

Physical Skill of Flying the Airplane.  As crazy as this may seem to say, it is so very important to keep your skill of flying the airplane up to par.  We are all guilty of this, engaging the autopilot right after takeoff and disengaging it right before landing.  Do not misconstrue this to say automation is bad; it is great in a varying amount of situations.  However, flying the airplane with your hands and feet is still a physical skill.  A human being will loose a physical skill over time if not continually practiced and refined.  Too often people are not comfortable in the airplane because when the automation fails or doesn’t work the way it is supposed to, people are intimidated to take control and fly the airplane.  Keep your physical flying skill up to a level that would allow you to be comfortable flying that airplane through one flight with absolutely no automation helping you.

What was the pivotal point in your experience which enabled you to become a 737 captain at the age of 24?   

The first time that I actually sat in the 737 for my first flight, I honestly was so excited to be flying a Boeing that it clouded my thought process.  But as the minutes went by, and I got into the process and did what I was trained to do, I realized that it really is just an airplane, all be it a fairly large one, that I can do this.  It’s that attitude that I kept thinking about for a long time, because it is intimidating when you walk around something that is the largest plane you’ve ever flown before.  The turning point for me was when I was asked by the training department at my airline to teach ground instruction to new hire and recurrent training classes.  I then realized that all of my study and perseverance had paid off, and this was my final chance to prove myself.  Teaching others allows you to learn a lot more than you thought you knew, and I still enjoy it tremendously.  A few months after getting certified as an Air Transportation Ground Instructor (ATGI), I was given notice that I’d be upgrading to Captain.

Can you briefly describe your pilot career progression, leading up to your current position with Sky King Airlines?

I have been very fortunate with my career progression, but it has been associated with a lot of hard work and determination.  I have wanted to fly ever since I can remember and knew what an airplane was. I received my Private Pilot certificate on my 17th birthday and received my Instrument rating and Single-Engine commercial certificate while in High School.  During this time, I also starting working at a private jet charter company, Florida Jet Service, doing odd jobs not associated with a pilot job.  Eventually and while attending Embry-Riddle, I was given the opportunity to fly as a First Officer in this company’s Learjet 55’s after I had received my Multi-Engine certification. I also received my Certified Flight Instructor (CFI), and Flight Instructor, Instrument (CFII) while attending ERAU. During this time I was given the opportunity to fly for a private corporation which owned four different types of business jets.  I had this part-time job for about 9 months after graduation from ERAU and then got hired as a First Officer at Sky King Airlines in June of 2010.  I recently upgraded to Captain in January of 2012.

How has your Embry-Riddle education enhanced your pilot career?

The Aeronautical Science degree program at ERAU will, in short, give one all of the knowledge to become a professional aviator.  I have absolutely no regrets and my degree is an integral part of how I have attained my position in my career.  Working hard and paying attention to everything the professors tell you in class was critical in my development as a pilot.  They have all “been there, done that” and know what it takes to actually do the job right.  Also, my membership on the Embry-Riddle Eagles Flight Team and being an Instructor Pilot at ERAU have helped me to become the pilot that I am today.

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.

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.

Alumni Career Spotlight: Roger Battistoni

Roger Battistoni

Roger Battistoni, DB 1994

Roger Battistoni (DB Aeronautical Science, 1994)  is no stranger to Embry-Riddle’s Career Services Office. A Captain for NetJets and President/Owner of MultiCorp Aviation, he has dedicated his time and finances to come to campus regularly and talk to flight students about their future careers. Roger participated in our Alumni Industry Panel in 2009 and for several years now, he has presented Making the Most of Your Pilot Career.

Students and alumni can come and hear Roger speak tonight at 5:30pm in COB 114.

What factors, traits, or skills have enabled you to become both a successful Captain and business owner?

I think the ability to look forward and “see” my future.  When actor Jim Carrey arrived in Hollywood with only what he was wearing, he envisioned himself walking down the red carpet and actually wrote himself a check for $10 Million dated 10 years in the future.  What happened? Four months prior to that date, he received his largest commission check for a movie; that’s right, $10 Million.  You have to believe in yourself before you can make someone or some company believe in you.

If you could go back to your college days, what would you do differently? Why?

I would not change anything.  For me, the largest tool that I have used in my life and career to move forward has been my education from Embry-Riddle.

How do you utilize your network to help you in your career?

As they say, aviation is a very small world.  Your First Officer today could be your Captain tomorrow.  I remember when I started flying…I was 10 and I flew with this great instructor named Joe.  He moved  on to bigger and better things just a couple of years later, and I never heard from him again.  That was, until I was flying for the regionals and he walked in my cockpit… as my First Officer…

Everyone has an opinion and I think it is very important to seek out different opinions and use the “Embry-Riddle” network to obtain those opinions.  As they say, measure twice, cut once.

What is one piece of career advice you would like to share with ERAU students and alumni who are seeking work?

Take the blinders off, aviation is not just about the airlines…there are a lot of rewarding jobs in aviation other than the airlines.  Most importantly, do something that you are passionate about and you will be successful.

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