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Airline pilot Joel Simpson’s career path

Posted on: 05/17/2024

At ATP.Academy, our goal is to find, educate, and involve top-tier instructors in the aviation field. To teach ATP-CTP courses, instructors must meet strict requirements, including holding Certified Flight Instructor (CFI), flight instructor with Instrument Rating (CFII), multi engine instructor rating (MEI) certificates and having at least two years of experience with a U.S. airline under Part 121. Our team includes many experienced and talented instructors, and we’re proud to introduce them to our current and future students. The first instructor we’re featuring is airline pilot Joel Simpson, an A320 captain at Spirit Airlines.

Joel’s Pilot Career Path to Airlines

When and why did you decide to become a pilot?

“It’s a funny story. My first flight was a family vacation to Orlando, Florida, in 1993 when I was three years old. As we were exiting the aircraft, I ran into the cockpit. The captain welcomed me warmly, lifted me onto his lap, put his hat on my head, and let me touch all the buttons while answering all my questions. That experience was deeply memorable and made me realize that being a pilot, traveling, and exploring places as part of my job would be the coolest thing ever. So, I’ve wanted to be a pilot since I was three, and every career day at school reaffirmed my dream.”

ATP-CTP instructor and airline pilot Joel Simpson

What were your steps to achieve your goal to become a pilot?

“I attended a Liberal Arts College with an Aviation Department, completing a four-year Part-141 School Aviation Program where I earned a new rating each year, such as Private Pilot License and Instrument Rating. After graduating, I taught as an instructor under the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, as I didn’t have a Green Card at the time. Later, I moved to Korea to teach and then flew Caravans in Indonesia for Susi Air, which involved bush flying. After several years, including stints in the Caribbean and flying cargo out of Puerto Rico, I returned to the U.S. and transitioned to flying A320s.”

Your aviation degree?

“My bachelor’s degree is in Aviation Management, focusing more on the Management and Operational aspects of Aviation rather than technical engineering.”

Cost of your education?

“My entire education, including flight training from 2008 to 2012, cost about $60,000. This included tuition, room and board, books, and other fees, with flight hours in a Piper Tomahawk costing around $78 to $90 per hour.”

Tell us about your aviation career. Did you start with Susi Air?

Susi Air is known for its high standards, but also for a high turnover rate. It serves as a stepping stone in a pilot’s career, involving challenging flying conditions like island hopping and mountain flying across Indonesia. Communication can be difficult, as not all air traffic controllers speak English fluently.”

Aviation career opportunities at Spirit Airlines?

“Joining Spirit Airlines was straightforward. The interview focused on my experience and cultural fit rather than technical flying skills, thanks to my prior experience flying similar routes with Caribbean Airlines.”

How quickly did you upgrade to Captain?

“It took four years to become a captain; normally, it would take three, but the pandemic delayed the process.”

Why do you prefer Airbus over Boeing?

“I appreciate the advanced automation and ergonomic design of Airbus aircraft, which I find more modern and pilot-friendly compared to Boeing.”

Three pieces of advice for future pilots:

  1. Believe and Persevere: The journey will be challenging. Maintain belief in yourself and persevere through tough times.
  2. Choose Your Training Program Wisely: Research thoroughly and talk to former students. Ensure the program meets your needs.
  3. Financial Preparedness: Be financially prepared to invest in your training, exploring loan options if necessary.

As we conclude our conversation with airline pilot Joel Simpson, it’s clear that his story is more than just about his own success—it’s a source of inspiration for anyone wanting to become a professional pilot. Joel’s dedication to being the best and his valuable advice highlight the importance of working hard and planning carefully in the field of aviation. We at ATP.Academy are proud to share his story and continue to support our students as they pursue their own career paths in aviation, inspired by role models like Joel.

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