Friday, January 9, 2015

Austin Poole Interviewed by Colton Woods

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Interview of Pilot Austin Poole
Colton Woods
University of Central Missouri – AVIA 3305
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A simulated interview is a great way to confront those intrapersonal questions every aspiring pilot wants to hear, but may not have the connections to do so. I have condensed simulated interview questions, both general and intricate thoughts, about a career in aviation and what it’s like being paid to dedicate your passion to serving others. My interviewee was Mr. Austin Poole of Allen Systems Group (ASG). Mr. Poole provided more than enough information about his journey and lifestyle to allow the reader a view at what it is like between the eyes of a corporate pilot with over 3100 hours.
When asked what made Austin want to pursue a career in aviation he couldn’t hold back reciting his path since the University of Central Missouri. He begins his response with, “What else would I do? I’m not good enough to make it on the PGA tour.” I laughed at this response, though in reality it’s nothing less of a practical answer. Why risk pursuing any other branches of career opportunities that may pop up along the way while aviation is a stable and financially rewarding field. Mr. Poole talks about his many interests, “but the only one that makes enough money for me to pay back my enormous student loans is business aviation.” Once accomplishing a mission of taking a corporate VIP halfway across the world in a professional and efficient manner, all while seeing earth from a birds-eye-view, and then some, there must be no better feeling. “As long as I love it and it pays the bills, I’d never leave aviation.” Austin proclaims. These quotes are validation enough to understand the level of passion a pilot must have to not only become successful in aviation, but to maintain the desire for a greater career and lifestyle. It isn’t only for personal benefit, but to satisfy traveling needs all over the world; from appeasing the summer vacationers, to assuring deadlines are met, to transporting persons and cargo place to place on demand.
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After extensive research, there is a two-to-one ratio of general aviation pilots who get their start either with or due to other family members propelling them along the way. Just as myself, Austin had no family or friends to help him “plug into the industry”, which he describes as a slight disadvantage. Though in the long-run he and I could both agree that you can willfully benefit by forging your own path; therefore feeling more proud of the self-made accomplishments along the way.
Pilot Poole has made a respectable living since college through the opportunities aviation has presented. He attended the University of Central Missouri with the four-year degree major as a ‘Professional Pilot’. During his sophomore year at UCM he attended a career fair and learned about Flight Safety Academy located in Vero Beach, Florida. Mr. Poole mentions participation in this program “played a pivotal role in my career”. Through the fortuity of opportunity attending the Academy, he was offered a position in an instruction program called ‘Direct-Track’. This allowed Flight Safety Academy instructors like Austin to select the business jet of their choice. Once completing an 800 hours dual given contract, he was sent to begin training to co-pilot in specific aircraft simulators for clients who had no previous training partner. Once a type rating in such plane was achieved, he could legally be a Second-In-Command (SIC) and begin flying for and networking with other pilots of that specification.
These opportunities don’t just appear simply because you have a ‘Four year Professional Pilot Degree’ from Central Missouri, though. Mr. Poole was not only an avid associate to the organizations on campus, but one of our very own flight instructors for 16 months. From dates
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September 2006, until December 2007 he assisted in the training and development of many student aviators along the similar path he was reaching to obtain. Then at Flight Safety Academy in Vero Beach he also incorporated a little over two more years of flight instruction. Savannah, Florida was his next and final venture of training to achieve the Gulfstream G-V type rating, which offers the same type rating allowable for G450, G550, and other variations of Gulfstream planes. After about 18 months Austin was prepared to begin a major leg of his journey in the field of Business Aviation.
Mr. Poole currently flies a Gulfstream 550 for ASG Software Solutions. The “ASG” stands for Allen Systems Group. This is a software production corporation that is privately owned by Arthur Allen, founded in 1986 and has now grown to be an international company. Poole was offered this job directly after his Gulfstream type rating training for a year and a half in Savannah, Florida on the Direct-Track program. He was introduced to the Chief Pilot of the flight department in Savannah and worked as a Flight Operator in the Gulfstream simulators. This is a candid demonstration of the old but wise saying “Aviation is all about who you know.” I wish that my interviewee had offered more specific details on their initial meet, to get a feel for how key communication is when meeting face-to-face with a potential future boss. In some cases it could sequence more beneficial to show nothing but professionalism in the face of power like in Austin’s situation; or after all, is the employer looking for personable pilots that aren’t afraid to communicate freely and effectively, seeming more serviceable to those he or she would be transporting.
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When asked what his most favorable experience flying for this company was, he answered in great detail two separate answers: one for his favorite experience while working at ASG, and another for his best aviation related experience. As for ASG, a three-week long trip to Australia and French Polynesia consisted of an eight-day stay at a 5-star Hilton resort in Bora-Bora. He describes the hotel rooms as cabins built on stilts over crystal-clear lagoon water. For leisure during the stretch of tropical retreat the flight crew wasted no time enjoying the great adventures including snorkeling and diving with aquatic life, kayaking in the lagoon all the way out toward the Pacific, and Whale watching. The entirety of this description cannot be matched by that of the average desk job, nor will it ever be.
Austin continues on to his most favorable experience overall while flying, this was more of a very unique and nearly un-replicable journey from Naples, Florida to Paris, France. The route was during the night-time and their departure time combined with the summer tilt of the earth’s axis gave his flight a night without darkness. He still experienced an official sunset and sunrise, but the twilight moved from West to East just as the plane did, giving the illusion that the sun never set. Another funny story he mentions was flying his boss on a trip that resulted in him celebrating two birthdays; one in Australia on the evening of his birthday and as they crossed the date line he landed on the morning of his birthday again. These are just a few examples of the types of unique experiences that come along with being employed in aviation. Aviation is both a privilege and a beauty to be able to experience unique adventures of this sort.
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Pilot Poole mentions more than once throughout the interview about job stability and what it means to have patience when it comes to job selection and preservation. This information seems relevant to a few different responses given. When asked to introduce his worst experiences flying for this company and in all of aviation. With ASG he proclaims that he has dealt with an inconsistent amount of flying mostly due to the financial stability of the corporation. As a result, he has undergone weeks and even months of a parked aircraft. He continues “It is difficult for a company to operate a G550 (at about $6 million per year) when they are not making money.” There is a lot to be taken from this quote. ASG clearly targeted nearly one of the most expensive business jets in the market, assuming they would have the income to support such a price tag. Now that it has panned out to be a financial struggle, he suggests he would have probably been more patient with his selection of job offers upon completion of his Gulfstream type rating. He tells us the stress and fear of losing his job made him have a bad attitude toward work and those associated at times, which is something he wished he could change.
Aviation is a sure-fire industry, though you must find that niche before you may consider it a “secure” field. I wanted to know from a personal standpoint with a business aviation operator such as Pilot Austin Poole, did he ever doubt or reconsider this career path. He promptly says no, not the career in general, there were simply times that he peaked or got stuck along the way, but that never got him down. He continues with examples of times that the ASG planes were parked for three months because everyone except the flight mechanic and himself were laid-off. In reality, times of instability occur with any field or career, though with aviation it could be a difficult transition to a new branch of business if the opportunity ever
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arose, due to the specific required training necessary for the fleet of aircraft a particular corporation has to offer.
Austin mentions multiple times he is very grateful for the opportunities that have approached him along the path to where he is today. In light of this mindset, I asked what motivates him each morning to go to work on a day he is scheduled to fly. “You have to learn to love what you do and be happy no matter what.” I really enjoy this answer because it is so true. In support, he includes the comments “No job is perfect.” along with “You have to realize you still have a way better job than most people.” Only fellow aviators could truly understand and agree that this message is not so much biased as it is accurate. You need a passion for excellence and professionalism. You have to be a person who holds high standards, and operates with integrity no matter who is or is not watching. Readers and I can confidently imagine Mr. Poole has been in both situations and performed to the upmost of standards. This example of character cannot be found in just anyone; thus not everybody belongs in the cockpit of a multi-million dollar machine.
Austin Poole reiterates throughout the interview to always maintain integrity within actions and self. I asked of him a few words of advice for a prospective pilot. He gave me more than simply a motivational speech, but a set of character-driven rules to follow when it comes to excellence. The industry is relatively small, therefore make as many connections to continue formal communication with as you can. “Do everything with an attitude of excellence, no matter how mundane the task. Don’t allow others to drag you into bad habits. Don’t let other’s
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sour attitude drag you down”. Strict adherence to regulations and safety is just as contagious in the cockpit as bad attitude, so be the leader and set a correct example.
The extensive information that my interviewee has provided was more than satisfactory to give readers a great deal of understanding what it takes to be a pilot, with some good experiences and pointers to follow along the way. It is clear to understand you must not let opportunity bypass you as an aspiring pilot, but take hold of what you can get your hands on, and see where it takes you. Austin did just that and it seems he has benefitted greatly from programs and institutions that crossed his path. Keep in mind his words of advice: be patient and maintain a good attitude. Most of his words were not only to answer my questions, but to provide examples for myself and others that I pass this knowledge on to. There are a number of quotes, both included and not, that I wish I had room for without it seeming illiterate that I cannot come up with my own. After seeing his attitude toward the industry and those affiliated with it, I may confidently exclaim he is a pilot I would be honored to occupy the cockpit with, knowing his integrity and experience would make for a fun and safe flight. They say that the world of Aviation is all about connections, and I now hope to say I can count Austin Poole as one.
“The industry is what you make of it, but all of us can use help along the way” –Austin Poole

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