Job Envy

 In Feature, Food

Pilot David Payne’s “office view” at 41,000 feet is unrivaled


Every time David Payne gets up in the air, he feels like a kid again. And why not? Becoming a real-life pilot is practically every boy’s dream. But the man’s job is a serious one—one that requires lots of training, concentration and grueling hours—the likes of which are no doubt offset by fabulous destinations, celebrity passengers and a free ticket to travel the world. Let’s just say his frequent flyer miles have paid off tenfold.

David Payne, 27
First Officer, Avantair

How he got into the biz: I’ve loved flying from the earliest memories of my life. At age 14, I started at a small airport in Yankton, SD, fueling airplanes. Then I worked for a major airline in Phoenix loading baggage while going to school. After I received my commercial pilot’s license, I landed a job with a small airline in Maui, HI, where I was a customer service rep, who would fly once a week with the captain. At 23, I was promoted to captain and my career was on its way…with a lot more hard work ahead!

Education/Training: I started training when I was 18 at a school in Phoenix for career-oriented pilots. On the larger aircrafts I’ve flown, training lasts around three weeks with two weeks of book work and written tests, then about five to seven days in a full-motion flight simulator, followed by a check ride that tests your overall knowledge and performance.

Best work day ever: If I had to pick, it would be when I was flying a King Air 300 out of Grand Junction, CO. My old boss loved to spend his time in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. From September through April, we would spend weeks out of every month down there. It’s a great feeling to wake up early in the morning when the weather is freezing and snow is all over the ground, knowing in four hours you’ll be in Cabo! For two weeks, everything was paid for: jet skis, golf, nice restaurants, you name it.

Why his job rocks: I’m 27 years old, and I’ve been to 49 of the 50 states, most of the islands in the Bahamas, six provinces in Canada, all over Mexico, the Netherlands and Germany. I’ve flown a variety of celebrities, including Steven Tyler from Aerosmith, Sarah Palin and professional golfer, Gary Player.

Typical Day: Welcome to my desk at 41,000 feet where I have one of the greatest office views I know of! I normally start by checking the weather, doing the flight planning, and examining the plane inside and out to make sure everything is where it needs to be.

Best Job Perk: As a corporate pilot, flying some of the most modern jets in the industry is unbelievable. Getting to meet and fly famous singers, golfers and politicians is also a fun perk. And, having a few days on a sandy white beach with an umbrella drink in hand is never a bad thing!

Proudest Moment: When I took an aircraft up solo for the very first time. When you line up with the runway and your heart is beating and you push the throttle forward, pull back on the controls and watch the Earth fall away, you realize you’ve done it—you’re an aviator!

Goals for the Future: Later in life, I’d like to be on a larger aircraft—something that can cross oceans and see the world.



David Payne

David Payne


Photo credit: Photos by Attilio DAgostino

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