Dunning is a pilot for Continental Express, a regional subsidiary
of Continental Airlines. She flies small, 46-passenger ATR-42
airplanes in and out of Newark, NJ, four days a week.
Given the recent attacks in New York and Washington, DC, Dunning’s
job may seem terrifying. But, she seems to trust the new safety
look at it from a pretty logical point of view,” she says. “I
do believe that the security has been improved.”
She will comply and trust any new Federal Aviation Agency (FAA)
regulations, although she draws the line at pilots carrying guns.
seems like it may cause even more problems,” she says. She is
more worried about the industry, in particular, how smaller airlines
will fare with drops in airline use.
That Dunning is thinking in economic terms is not surprising,
as she never intended to become a pilot at all, but rather, go
into business. Dunning holds a BA in finance from SUNY-Albany,
and she started an internship at an investment company when she
moved to Manhattan after graduation. However, things did not go
two months later, I was miserable,” she says of starting her new
job. She enjoyed neither the work nor the hours, and at 21 years
old, she had to reevaluate what she wanted to do. While on an
airplane going to visit a friend, she realized that she really
enjoyed flying. Why not make it a career?
Dunning grew up with a father who flew a Skyhawk–a small, four-person
airplane.She never thought about becoming a professional pilot,
even while she was taking flying lessons during her summers in
college. She recalls flying with her father at night as a young
I would always be baffled at how he could find his way home at
night, she said.
Now, of course, after nearly three years of training and over
1,500 hours flying, she knows exactly how. In order to log the
more than 1,500 hours of flying, Dunning, like many of her peers,
received an instructor rating, which allowed her to teach flying,
and thus pay for her flying hours as well. She joined Continental
Express in January 2001 as a trainee, and in March she received
her commercial rating.
have to go through the natural steps,” she explains of the path
towards becoming a pilot for a major airline, which she says is
what she eventually wants to be doing. “I had a five-year plan
that just turned into a seven-year plan,” she explains.
When the economy is good and people are taking airplane trips,
the industry tends to move pilots up the ranks quickly–in two
or three years. However, these days, with confidence in the airlines
waning, Dunning wonders how long it will take for her.
At 25 years old, Dunning may seem like a young pilot, but she
says this is not unusual. “I have been running into many people
my age,” she says. As for being a woman in an industry that has,
according to Dunning, 10 to 12 percent women, she has not felt
it make a difference. “Everyone throughout my training has been
professional,” Dunning says.
She says, that it is her coworkers that makes the job worthwhile,
and, of course, the landings. “It’s the most thrilling part of
the ride,” she says. What is the worst part of the job? There
isn’t really one. When pressed, she says,“My biggest headache
is when I am done with the trip and I have to drive home.”#
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