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Student Interview: Jon Riley

Student Interview: Jon Riley

Pilot’s Digest: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Jon Riley: I am 38 years old and married to an awesome lady named Katie. Katie and I celebrate our 12-year anniversary this year. We have two gorgeous girls, ages 11 and 8. We are originally from the frozen tundra of Minnesota. I am currently employed as a police officer for a Dallas suburb. I am assigned to the patrol division. I am also a SWAT Operator. I started in law enforcement with the U.S. Air Force in 1999, then transitioned to become a civilian police officer in 2007.

PD: What rating/license are you working on currently?

JR: I am working on my Instrument and Commercial Ratings concurrently.

PD: How did you get into flying?

JR: I originally thought about becoming a pilot in 2003 while I was active duty. A Lt. Colonel had invited me into the cockpit of a C-130 during a flight. I remember being amazed by everything in the cockpit. Meanwhile, the pilots were all talking and not flying
the plane. I had no idea about autopilot. As I nervously asked about who was flying the plane, the pilots explained some of the processes of flying. I looked into it, but I found the jobs were few and far between, so I decided to stay with law enforcement. Last year, I met an Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC), who encouraged me to get my license and I’d get an age waiver. Katie was excited. She’s endured many sleepless nights with my career and she wasn’t excited about me disappearing to the Feds. As we talked about it, we made a joint decision for me to pursue being a civilian pilot.

PD: What are your goals in aviation?

JR: Right now, the goal is to get all my ratings and hours so that I can have a successful career in aviation.

PD: What made you choose American Flyers for your training?

JR: I heavily researched flight schools in the Dallas area. I was lucky enough to see the highest rated school, American Flyers, was located in Addison. I still spoke to several schools in person. When I visited American Flyers North, I spoke with Brian Williams. Brian told me about the flexibility of Flyers and their ability to build a schedule around my busy, alternating, court-filled schedule. This was key for me as I had to continue working full-time. Another fortunate opportunity was the timing of Flyers’ partnership with Wells Fargo. I was looking at personal loans and when I was ready to start, the partnership had just started and I was able to get the loan I needed to get through flight school.

PD: Tell us about your experience so far with American Flyers.

JR: It’s been wonderful. I have great instructors at the North campus. One thing I’ve appreciated is the staff is very friendly. It’s a busy place, but all the staff is always taking the time to say hello. It’s a very positive learning environment.

PD: How do you find the time to train while handling your busy schedule as a police officer?

JR: This has been tiring. If I’m off, I’m usually studying or watching a video about a lesson. Sometimes my kids will sit next to me and do their homework and ask me why mine’s taking so long. I couldn’t get through any of this without the support of Katie and
my kids. Flyers has been super flexible for me, especially with court. There have been times where they’ve adjusted the schedule to get me in to train in the morning when I have to go to court in the afternoon. This has been critical in moving forward.

PD: What’s been your favorite thing about flying so far?

JR: THE FREEDOM! There is nothing like being up in the air. I used to ride Harleys all the time. I always felt pretty free, but the road was always close to remind you of the road rash you could get. Obviously, I have to pay attention to what I am doing, but flying is
like no other experience.

PD: What’s been the most challenging thing so far?

JR: I think the transition. I didn’t know anything about aviation in the beginning. When I started, my instructors took the time on each lesson to make sure I understood the material. There’s so much information to soak in that sometimes it can be overwhelming. My instructors kept me on track and focused on the areas I needed to focus on. As I have continued to progress, it has become easier to grasp new concepts.

PD: What’s next for you once you complete your current phase of training?

JR: The plan is to complete my commercial, then move on to the instructor course.