How did you begin your career as a pilot?
I have to say that it was very unexpected. I was just in Slovakia preparing to study abroad for my master’s degree. A friend of my father’s owns an airplane and took us for a flight over Liptov and the High Tatras. It was the first time that I ever sat in the cockpit. Flying left me with a unique feeling and as soon as I returned abroad, I signed up for flight school and began to study flying alongside psychology.
What led you to choose this profession?
Mostly it was the feelings that were stirred in me after my first flying experience. Now I know that it’s the love of flying. While I was studying psychology, I realized the that since we spend most of our time at work, the most important thing is to find a job that you will love.
Flying is my passion, love and work all in one, so I’m lucky to have a job that fulfils me in many areas.
What’s interesting about this job for you?
The most interesting thing is the daily results of my work, which I see at the end of every day. But also the feeling of being responsible for the safety of the passengers is very interesting. I love the feeling of freedom that takes over the moment the wheels lift off the runway.
Would you like to give some advice on how to attract young people to the profession of pilot?
The profession of pilot requires a great deal of responsibility and concentration in order to pass all the tests. It’s a long process that only very tenacious people, who really love this profession, pass. If you have the dedication and love for this or any other job you may choose, then you can achieve anything. You don’t need to be afraid to go after your goal and to trust your instincts.
What type of high school would you recommend as most suitable for pursuing a career as a pilot?
I would recommend a school with a technical focus. I graduated from a business academy and I had to take additional subjects so I could understand certain features of physics, which I didn’t have the possibility to learn at the business academy. In the USA it’s different as many pilots graduate from high school and university with different majors, which serve as back-ups in case they’re not able to continue working as a pilot for medical reasons or loss of license. However, if you’re the technical type and you like to follow a specific routine and have analytical thinking skills, then it really doesn’t matter what you are currently studying.
What does the typical pilot’s day look like?
Nice question, since no two days are the same and they don’t begin at the same time. I can describe my last day at work to you. I wake up in a hotel at four o’clock in the morning and a car takes us to the airport. In the car we can study the weather that’s expected for the day. We get to the airport at five o’clock and fifteen minutes later we’re sitting on the plane. The flight is planned for six thirty. We go over the flight plan and decide how we will deal with certain things such as weather, airport departure and arrival, boarding passengers, and all the necessary numbers and figures concerning the total capacity of the aircraft. We fly from Wisconsin to Chicago and unload our passengers. We have a half-hour break, during which we have breakfast. After the break, we load our new passengers and prepare for the flight from Chicago to Nebraska. Once again we unload our passengers and board the new ones, who are flying to Denver, which is our last stop. We land in Denver around one in the afternoon with just enough time for a fast lunch. I then hurry to my next flight, which takes me to Las Vegas, where I live. On this flight I’m just a travelling pilot, which means I do not operate the aircraft. I arrive in Las Vegas around four in the afternoon. I take a bus from the terminal to the parking lot and get home around five. Waiting for me at home are my daily chores such as washing and cooking something simple and fast. After, I try to devote some time to other hobbies such as playing the piano, yoga/meditation or dancing. So, that’s what my typical day looks like.
How difficult was it for you to establish yourself abroad as a pilot? And moreover as a female…
My interest in this work was sufficiently great enough for me to believe that I could achieve it. Working in a man’s world means that you need to be better than most of the men in order to gain trust in the cockpit. Since there are few women in this profession, I would like to be an example for each woman that I meet at the airport and beyond.
Which type of plane do you prefer to fly?
Recently I passed the test for the Airbus A320. It had been my dream ever since I began working in this profession. And now that I’ve achieved it, I have to say that it’s the plane that I most prefer to fly.
What is your favourite route or destination?
I have a lot of them. For example Nashville, Tennessee is interesting, if you like country music and Elvis. San Francisco for its beautiful nature around the Golden Gate Bridge and food. And many others… it’s very difficult to choose a favourite city.
While on board have you ever experienced an interesting event or occurrence that you’d like to share with us?
I’ve experienced many interesting events that occurred during flight. Very interesting was the time when I had a problem with the aircraft while in the air. It was at the beginning of my career. At the time I had all my licenses and was a flight instructor. I was flying from Boston to Oshkosh for a large aviation conference, which lasts seven days. People from all over the world come to the USA just to have the opportunity to see what’s new in aviation. It was about one in the morning when I was flying over Canada, approximately 100 kilometres to the east of Detroit, Suddenly I heard a thud that came from the engine. It was as if someone was banging with a hammer on the plane’s engine. A second later I lost the gauge that monitors the temperature of the exhaust. At that moment I thought that I had lost an engine cylinder. However, when another indicator showed that the engine was running normally, I knew that I had time for a fast landing with the engine. The plane I was flying at the time was a single engine. And in this situation I was very careful with my decisions. I looked around for a place to land and declared an emergency landing on a runway in Canada. The landing runway was about ten miles away at the time. I had to drop 11,500 feet so I could land. I moved the engine control lever to the back position, the nose at 15 degrees below the horizon, and began to descend in a spiral above the runway, so I could prepare for landing. I knew that at the moment I landed I would have to get off the runway and turn off the engine. During the entire flight I was hoping that I wouldn’t lose the engine and that I wouldn’t have to land without it. The landing was normal and when I turned off the engine and went to check it out, I found that the exhaust had broken off from the engine. As soon as I saw it, I realized that if I had continued and flown closer to a larger airplane, the exhaust gases, which are extremely hot, could have caught the plane on fire and we would have ended up in the air on fire. I was very happy that my decision was the right one and that I was able to safely land.
What’s your favourite food?
Bryndzove halusky (potato dumplings with sheep cheese) definitely takes first place. I love all food that my mother cooks, which, by the way, I really miss.