I’m Greg Sivers, currently flying the Embraer 145 for Envoy as a First Officer. I completed Navy ROTC and commissioned in 2004 and went through flight school in Pensacola and winged in April 2006. I was stationed at Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, FL from 2006-2010 where I flew the SH-60B in HSL-46. While there I deployed once to the Persian Gulf on the USS Philippine Sea, and served as the squadron Safety Officer. I’ve been an Instructor Pilot at HT-18 at NAS Whiting Field since 2010. I finished my active duty commitment in 2014, and switched to the Navy Reserves and where I’m still an IP at HT-18. I applied to Envoy in November 2016 when the RTP was fully launched.
What was your aviation experience prior to going through a Rotor Transition Program?
I started in a Piper Tomahawk with 25 hours in the Navy’s Introductory Flight Screening program prior to Navy flight school. Then T-34 for primary, where I got 98 hours of fixed wing. Following that it was Advanced Helicopter training in the TH-57. I got about 600 hours in the SH-60B during my fleet tour, and then it was back to Whiting to be an IP in the TH-57. I’ve been at HT-18 Prior to getting hired by Envoy I had a little over 3000 hours, nearly all of it helo time.
Why did you decide to become an airline pilot?
My dad worked for American Airlines as a ground school instructor when I grew up. We took advantage of the travel benefits often and traveled a lot, including to Hawaii and Europe several times. Therefore I knew how great the travel benefits were as an airline employee. I often thought about working for an airline, but never figured it would be an opportunity to be a pilot, considering I’d flown helicopters in the Navy and the cost of getting the fixed wing hours would prohibit it. I’d been doing nothing but flying in the Navy Reserves for 2.5 years as my source of income, and was planning on applying to various HEMS jobs. When Envoy introduced the Rotary Transition Program, I jumped at the opportunity. It was simply too good an opportunity to pass up. Again, it wasn’t something I’d planned on since the job prospects weren’t there prior to the inception of RTP. When it became available I applied immediately because I was able to and didn’t have anything else lined up at the moment. I knew the potential possibilities later on were worth any short term hardship to get there.
What attracted you to the airline you work for?
I didn’t have a civilian job and Envoy had just started the RTP. They were the only airline offering it when I applied in November 2016 so it was a no brainer. There was no competition, therefore nothing to compare other than airline pilot vs helo pilot jobs.
How did you prepare for your airline’s interview? What was the interview experience like?
I found a Jeppesen chart review online to learn and study the differences between Jepp charts and DOD charts. I also considered answers to possible HR questions to ensure I didn’t stumble over my answers. Honestly, that was about it.
Describe your Rotor Transition Experience.
In the Navy we all start out in fixed wing and get about 100 hours, and are eligible to take the FAA’s Military Competency Exam to get the Commercial Single Engine Land and Rotorcraft Ratings, with Instrument in each. I had about 85 hours of fixed wing PIC time when I applied with Envoy. I completed RTP at Coast in San Marcos, TX, and only needed to time build and get the CMEL add on rating. I was there May 2 – August 2, 2017. It took me 1 month to complete the initial refresher Coast required, a little over 1 month to time build the 140 hours I needed, and then just shy of 1 month to complete the multi engine add on.
How has your career as a helicopter pilot prepared you for the airlines?
I’ve been an Instructor Pilot at HT-18 at NAS Whiting Field since February 2010. Students are instructed in basic VFR helicopter flying before progressing to instruments, formation, basic tactics, and NVGs. I’ve instructed in mostly instruments, NVGs, and formation, with an especially heavy focus on instruments. Most of the instrument instruction I’ve done is flying instrument approaches around the Pensacola area, which can be very busy during the day with all the Navy training aircraft in addition to the commercial airlines flying into Pensacola International. I was therefore very comfortable in the IFR environment, complying with ATC directions and talking on the radios. This helped me immensely going through training at Envoy and allowed me to focus more on learning the aircraft systems and how to fly the aircraft itself. When I actually got to flying the aircraft on IOE I was comfortable talking on the radio and flying approaches, which allowed me to focus more attention on keeping the jet stable on approaches and landing.
What would you do differently, if anything, to better prepare for an airline career transition?
I’d spend time flying and getting better and more comfortable in the IFR environment if that was an area I didn’t have much experience. The ability to plan ahead for approaches and think about how far out to configure, and ease of talking on the radios will help a lot later on. It’s one thing you can do to get ahead before training starts.
What do you love about your job as an airline pilot?
Seeing different cities and going places I’ve never been. I like to get out and explore in the cities when I’ve got the time on overnights. And the travel benefits at Envoy are unbeatable, my wife and I have already gone on several short trips to new places. We even decided to fly to St. Croix the night before when our original flights to Vermont filled up. The ability to go somewhere on a whim is something we both cherish and definitely plan to take advantage of.
Why should helicopter pilots be a preferred source of professional talent for airline hiring at regional and major airlines?
We have extensive experience with CRM, usually including multiple crewmembers other than pilots. We’ve had to work together as a team to complete missions even when personalities don’t mesh perfectly together. While the helicopters we’ve flown are obviously a much different airframes than the airliners we’ll fly, they are both very complex aircraft that require a lot of attention to operate safely and efficiently. Many of the helicopters we’ve flown are equipped with glass cockpits and sophisticated computer systems, much like the airliners. We’ve got the necessary skill set and are easy to train in the ways that the airlines need us to be trained to safely operate their aircraft.
I’ve been with Envoy for nearly a year as I write this. Overall I’m very glad I made the decision to try out this new career. I have been sitting reserve for longer than I hoped and haven’t gotten as many hours this first year as I thought, but I’m still enjoying the flying and the job overall. Despite the low pay and sometimes difficult schedule early on, I’m keeping my eye on the long term goal of flying with a major. It’s also great to have the support of my wife in this endeavor, it makes the being gone from home much easier to deal with.