Welcome to the 35th “Share Your Story” post. Pilots from around the world write in featuring their flight experiences, promoting their blogs, websites, social media, novels, etc. These posts show students the diverse range of experiences/careers available to them in aviation. More details + how to participate can be found via the following: Click Here and Get Involved

David McCartney

The Early Years

My first experience with aviation was in kindergarten. One of the teachers worked parts time at a small, local airport in Pensacola, Florida called Ferguson Airport and she arranged a field trip out to the field. I can remember one of the instructors coming out with a radio talking to a couple 172s that were in the pattern. Just watching them fly around was incredible. Flash forward a few years and when I was 8 years old my dad took me to the same small airport and surprised me with my first flight in a small plane. It was incredible. I was hooked. From then on I can remember my mother or father taking me out to the airport for flights for my birthday or for Christmas or for getting good grades.

When I was 14, I was actually flying the airplane and these fun flights actually turned into lessons. I can remember one flight where my mother had flown in the back with us and the instructor turned around and said “I think it’s time we get this kid a license”. I don’t think my mom really new at that point what was in store for her (or her nerves).

July 5th 2006, I did my first ever solo flight. It was my 16th Birthday. My only real memory for that flight was remembering how quickly the airplane jumped off the ground with only me in it. As I was doing my touch and go’s I could see my mother out by the fence with my dad. Dad was beaming and my mother’s mouth was still open in awe because apparently no one explained to her what “solo” really meant. She said she was confused when the instructor got out of the airplane and I started taxiing. She thought I was just going to park the plane by myself or something. She had no clue I was going to fly the thing.  

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ERAU

After working nights for a local home improvement company in their marketing and sales department I had finally help pay some of my way towards my license. Little did I know what this background in sales and marketing would do for me in a few short years. Soon the tough decision about what to do about college. From my sophomore to senior year in high school I had wanted to be an architect, a pathologist, a toxicologist, a flight surgeon in the Navy, and then I finally decided on a career as a Naval Aviator and signed up to go to Embry-Riddle in Daytona Beach.

This was probably one of the best choices I had made in my life that I would never follow through with completely.

During my sophomore year, my best friend Kenny, joined me in Daytona after transferring from Auburn University. We had been going to school together since 1st grade and he went to Auburn and I went to Embry-Riddle after graduating high school. He also soloed at Ferguson on his 16th birthday.

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Wrong Bros, Ferguson Airport, and Brown Helicopter

After 4 years I had a degree in Aeronautics with a specialty in Aviation Law. I also was looking for a job. I was lucky that Brown Helicopter, a Pensacola-based aviation parts company, was looking for someone to help out at their newest acquisition, Ferguson Airport, as well as begin working to sell aircraft. During college I worked under an aircraft broker in Spruce Creek selling light aircraft, mostly Cessna’s, Pipers, and Beechcraft. As part of a “hiring-bonus” I was able to attend Bristow Academy in Titusville, Florid and get an additional rating for helicopters on my commercial license. I guess you should be able to fly what you sell, right?

Around the same time, Kenny and I formed Wrong Brothers which would become a flight school we would base out of Ferguson Airport.

We remembered what flying was like at Embry-Riddle and watching everything occurring in aviation after the Colgan Air crash and we knew we wanted to be a different breed of flight school. At the same time we wanted to be relevant and provide a level of quality training.

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We had “grown-up” landing on the grass and flying a 500 foot pattern altitude literally alongside T-2’s and T-34’s landing at NAS Pensacola. We were taught the old school stick and rudder flying. Wind in your hair, a little oil on the windscreen, and grass in your tailwheel springs. You know, the kind of flying where a slip is your best friend when it’s windy and the rudders aren’t just for your feet to rest upon. At Riddle we were part of the Eagle Sport Club where this type of grass-roots flying almost became an escape from our more regimented studies on campus. We wanted to take flying back to the basics, back to the stick and rudder game. The answer was easy and tail-wheel flight training was going to be our niche.

We’ve got two American Legend Cubs we use for tailwheel training as well as Piper Warrior for basic and instrument flight training. We also have added along an American Champion Super Decathlon for aerobatics, spin and upset-recovery training.

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The company has also now added an R-44 and MD500 to the fleet for aerial photography, tours, and light utility work.

Since being hired by Brown, I have stepped up to be the Airport Manager for Ferguson. It’s a great part of my job and I love the interaction with my hometown community. It’s also pretty surreal to know that I get to manage the place where I learned to fly as a kid.

While my side-gigs at Wrong Brothers and Ferguson Airport are awesome, what I now refer to as my “adult-job”, selling aircraft for Brown Helicopter, is amazing. This year I was able to travel to South Korea to help oversee the delivery of a Sikorsky S76 I sold to a company for firefighting and EMS missions in the rural parts of the country. We are currently working on a second Sikorsky S76 to go to Europe sometime in spring for use in the offshore wind and gas industry.

While the downside to the job is I don’t get a whole lot of face-to-face contact with my customers, I have developed a network of colleagues not only in the United States but really all over the world. Frequently there are days where I wake up responding to emails from Asia from the day before and communicating with Europe during the mid-mornings. The funniest thing to me still is when I have to plan my phone calls overseas because of the time difference or even the day difference sometimes.

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Looking Towards the Future

I never thought for a minute that the decision to become a pilot would lead me to where I am now. The best part is, looking back now, everything I did or tried to do brought me to where I am today. The late night telemarketing job and marketing hurricane-shutters at local events or at the mall in high school helped prepare for a set of communication skills I am so thankful to have. Having a specialty in Aviation Law from college was just one step for a quicker graduation. I had no clue my job would involve reading the FARs almost daily, or statutes regarding airport regulations for Florida, or even writing and negotiating aircraft purchase agreements for international customers. I never thought that my training during my short time in Navy ROTC would help prepare me for the unsurmountable task of working, leading and managing people and resources on a wide range of levels.

My favorite part of the job is having kids and young-adults come out to the airport. Knowing what aviation had done for me and my life, it’s impossible to not want to share the excitement. When we have field trips for local schools and young-adult programs I always try and remind them that aviation isn’t just about the pilots. There are a wide range of careers available in maintenance, management, customer service, engineering and that’s just the beginning. If you want to do it, it can be done. Just add a little elbow grease and hard work.

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The most important thing I can share with someone based on my experience is something I learned from one of my heroes in life. “Love what you do, do what you love. If you’re not waking up, throwing off the covers to go to work in the morning….do something else. Life really is too short.”

Thanks so much, David, for writing in and sharing your story! It’s awesome to hear how hard work and the right mentality really put you ahead and propelled you to one awesome aviation career.

Thanks again for writing in and participating in the Share Your Story section of the blog,

-Swayne Martin

About The Author

Swayne Martin

I started this website to show you why you'll love becoming a pilot. As an owner and editor of Boldmethod Pilot Training, I've spent years working with pilots all around the world to make their dreams a reality. For a full bio, click the "About" tab above. Use the "Contact" tab to shoot me a message.

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