Navigating Heights According to the Captain of the Skies
Nothing can ever be compared to flying high in cloud nine, literally and figuratively. Captain Oscar Pineda Jr., a former Chief Pilot of OMNI Aviation Corporation, shared his experience on how he achieved his dream and got hold of the control wheel.
A Fascination by Airplanes
Hailing from Magalang, Pampanga, the 35-year-old Captain grew up fascinated by airplanes. From a young age, his mind was filled with curiosity, on how a huge machine that weighed several tons manage to fly. This fascination drove him to study Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering, major in Airplane Design at PATTS College of Aeronautics.
In 2004, he successfully graduated and pursued the career he always wanted. Unfortunately, early in his career, Capt. Pineda experienced how tough life could be because there were no job vacancies then. Initially, he had to resort to working in other fields of endeavor. He became a salesman for an advertising agency, a call center agent, a 7 Eleven service crew, and a car sales executive.
Hard Work Paid Off
As his biggest career move in 2006, he took a leap and took the Aeronautical Engineering Licensure Exam. Much to his fulfillment, not only did he pass the exam, but he also ranked 8th among all the examinees.
Within that year, the aviation industry started booming as more tourist destinations popped up in the country. As a result, newer fleets for airliners showed up creating an influx of foreign nationals who came into the country to travel and to take their flight training.
Eventually, Capt. Pineda landed a job as a Flight Dispatcher. But his heart was still set on flying an airplane. Ultimately, he resigned from the monotony of office works, which, he says, was his best choice. This choice led him to take his flying lessons in Manila.
Several years later, Capt. Pineda wound up teaching aspiring pilots. He was a former Operations Manager in one of the flying schools in Manila from 2008 until 2010. However, everything changed when the ICAO audit came. He explained that this audit not only momentarily stopped most flight schools in Manila but had put a roadblock to his career.
As a fallback, he made use of his license and searched for a job as an Aircraft Engineer. Fortunately, Dornier Technology, located within the Clark Air Base, immediately hired him. He worked there for almost a year, back to the four corners of an office.
Taking Hold of the Control Wheel
The optimist Captain knew his luck would never run out. This would prove to be true, when he met Capt. Ben Hur Gomez, the former owner of Omni Aviation Corporation. This lucky encounter started when he bumped into him while doing engineering tasks with their Cessna 152 fleet.
As they conversed, Capt. Gomez asked about Capt. Pineda’s background and when the former discovered that the latter was a licensed flight instructor, Capt. Pineda was offered a job at OMNI Aviation Corporation. Months later, as the odds were in Capt. Pineda’s side, he was welcomed aboard as the Chief Flight Instructor.
Looking back, he admitted that, at that time “[It] was a great challenge for me to lead the diverse corps of flight instructors at OMNI Aviation, most of which came from different countries.” That moment in his life might not have been easy, but he was proud to know that he was with a reputable flight training school in the country.
A year later, a shortage of airline pilots fueled Captain Oscar to grab a one in a million opportunity of becoming a commercial airline pilot. Fast forward to the present, Capt. Pineda is on his sixth year, flying with the largest low-cost carrier in the country, Cebu Pacific Air.
A Tiring but Fulfilling Profession
“As a Captain, you have to diligently run through your checklists, SOPs (standard operation procedures), and you have a lot to consider which require focus in case of any eventualities,” Capt. Pineda shares.
His daily routine includes arriving an hour early before the call time for the pre-flight briefing given by the flight dispatchers. He and his co-pilot discuss their flight details, which include aircraft status, routings, weather, fuel figures, passenger counts, and other things vital for the safe conduct of their flight.
In addition, boredom can be a common factor when a person becomes accustomed to long flights. To beat this, he came up with a strategy. He always welcomes and even encourages friendly discussion with his co-pilot. They could talk about work-related or personal matters, that helps ease their boredom.
Of course, not everything is rainbows and roses. In his most terrifying experience, Capt. Pineda shares, “I was then a newly released Captain. Just a month flying and we had a medical emergency on board. We – my co-pilot and I and my team of flight attendants – did everything we could. Fortunately, after landing, the qualified medical personnel arrived just in time to attend to the passenger.”
The job of a pilot is not an easy task; it’s not for the faint of heart, either. As Capt. Pineda’s story reveals, it takes a great deal of time and patience, matched with the strongest determination to face all obstacles head on. Becoming a pilot is not only taking hold of the wheel, but also having the perseverance and diligence to keep holding on to it.