Catching the flying “bug”…literally

MeYou could say aviation is in my blood. After all, my grandfather started flying Aeronca Champs in the 1930s and my great uncle was a navigator on a B-29 bomber in World War II. Like many pilots, I fell in love with flying when I was very young, around five years old. I knew then that I wanted to be a pilot (much to my parent’s dismay, I later found out). I took lessons as a teen at local airports in New Jersey and ultimately became a flight instructor, airline pilot and corporate pilot.

Those that fly know the thrill of soaring through the air and the passion that drives us towards it. From the acceleration on takeoff, to the challenge of landing, every flight takes us away from the mundane and into the world of excitement and possibility. This passion is so strong that it pushes us to continue even after having some “less than pleasant” experiences. I remember one of those experiences quite vividly:

IMG_0026I was flying Metroliners for an airline that no longer exists that was based in south Florida. One night as it was getting dark,  I reached for a dimming knob on the instrument panel…. and to my surprise—and horror—as I went to turn the knob, it scurried away. Not believing my eyes, I attributed it to my lack of sleep the night before. Not so. I pushed the seat back to get a better view and realized that the WHOLE cockpit was “scurrying”—the plane was infested with cockroaches!

I looked over and yelled to the captain, “We’ve got cockroaches in this airplane!”

He responded very casually, “Yeah, nobody told you?”

No, they most certainly didn’t!  Needless to say, I spent the next few months covering my open soda cans sitting in the cup holder and putting all of my snacks in Ziploc bags to avoid any surprises in my food.

Imagine all the places they can hide….

Yet, cockroaches and all, I still feel that flying the Metroliner was one of the most fun flying jobs I’ve had. As my career progressed and I flew more advanced aircraft, I found myself becoming ever more fascinated with what really drove advanced airplanes – the avionics. This fascination grew and ultimately led me to Rockwell Collins.

The great thing about my job now is that I get to work with both pilots and the people that help make and design these truly advanced avionics. Through this experience, I’ve learned that the only real way to continuously improve our equipment is to get candid feedback from other pilots and maintenance personnel like yourselves. With this blog, I hope to start to open these conversations—so let’s get started!

What stories do you have that tested your passion for aviation?


Read more about author Mitch Bernstein.