Why Mentorship Is Critical


I’m the only member of my family pursuing a career in aviation. The bug hit me early in high school, and it took me years of research, and persuading my family that I really wanted to fly before I really understood how the aviation industry works and what I would need to do to have a successful career in aviation. I didn’t start training until after my first year of college, and it was even longer before I understood what my long-term career image should look like.

Relationships have been critical for my knowledge of and entrance into the aviation industry. Without the friendships I’ve had, I wouldn’t even have been able to pursue flying as effectively as I did when I started training for my private pilot certificate. And even when I did, I didn’t quite understand the importance of each step of the process of how to attain my long-term goal of flying for a legacy airline.

I’ve been able to get a better picture of what my career should be through relationships I’ve had throughout the years. Different people at different times have helped me understand the best thing for me to do in each moment, whether it was deciding where to train, deciding whether (and when) to switch flight schools, and what each stop in my journey should be.

Up to now, without the guidance of mentors throughout my aviation career I would not have reached the point at which I am with the clarity I have for my continued future in the industry. I have been very lucky to work closely with experienced pilots and industry professionals to continue to grow my confidence and work towards the job I love so much.

I’ve also been lucky enough to support mentorship efforts for others. Through my work with Professional Pilots of Tomorrow, I’ve assisted a renowned mentorship organization carry out its mission for years. Mentorship is a rewarding field. It’s incredibly gratifying to see young pilots at the point where I was not too long ago now pursuing the same passion I’ve had for years.

There is no better way to learn about the aviation industry and how to navigate it than through the crewmembers and professionals who work in it every day. Though many people have varying opinions about each situation, learning from their experiences provides an incredible benefit for new pilots, especially those who, like me, don’t have previous exposure to or connections in aviation.

Aviation can, at times, be an intense and tiring career. But many of the people who work in aviation love their work and are, at the drop of a hat, eager to help others advance their careers. I’ve met plenty of pilots, young and old, who volunteer countless hours to help new pilots pursue flight. Finding a mentor, whether through an organization like PPOT or EAA or through personal connection, is a great way to help new pilots navigate the world of flying and find their place in the industry.

Not only is it important for new pilots to find mentors, but I also believe it’s critically important that current pilots mentor new pilots at every opportunity, no matter if they’re 40-year industry veterans or just at the start of their journey. Providing mentorship is the best way to give back to the aviation community. It also gives pilots a direct hand in shaping the future of the aviation industry in the ways they think are important. Thus, older pilots can guide new pilots in ways that improve the industry for generations of pilots to come. Mentorship is an excellent way for all industry professionals to move the industry forward be reinforcing positive changes, instilling effective mindsets, and establishing a culture of safety for the decades to come.

Mentorship is a cyclical process that provides great benefit to the aviation industry. Not only can young pilots, like me, learn a lot from mentorship, but providing mentorship later in your career not only repays the benefits you received but helps you shape a new generation of aviators like only you can.

Find a mentor. Become a mentor. Your future and the future of our industry are counting on you.

To learn more, start with Professional Pilots of Tomorrow, an organization helping pilots make informed decisions about their futures. Visit https://www.theppot.org.

SOURCEAero Crew News, July 2023
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John McDermott’s passion for aviation began in a Michigan bookstore when he found a story about a chance encounter between enemy pilots during World War II. Soon, after watching countless hours of fighter jets and traffic from his home near O’Hare International Airport, he was hooked forever. These days, John is a student pilot from Chicago pursuing a career in professional aviation. He works with Professional Pilots of Tomorrow’s Digital Media Team and has experience as an airline ramper and customer service agent. Though he is also pursuing a Religious Studies degree at Northwestern University, he does not plan to become a missionary pilot. Instead, he dreams of far-off destinations with warm beaches and fun adventures. With years of experience writing and editing for aviation news websites, John is ready to take the next step towards pursuing his life-long career goal of becoming flight crew.


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