Alex Zenni doesn’t exactly come from an aviation background. Sure, he’s got a bit of family history in aviation — his grandfather flew in the Navy during the Korean War in the 1950s and his father attempted to become a fighter pilot, though he ended up failing his eye exam. But when Alex decided that becoming a professional pilot was his calling in life, he didn’t have a lot of people to turn to for practical guidance.
That’s when Professional Pilots of Tomorrow entered the picture.
“I was just scrolling through Facebook one day, it was actually the day after my instrument checkride, and I saw that they had featured my flight instructor’s wife and thought to myself, ‘Oh that’s a neat organization,’” Alex explained. “I Googled them and put in my application. … [I] got a call the next day, and that kind of sparked my interest there.”
Alex, who is finishing up his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, started flight training the summer after his freshman year in college. His parents got him a ride in a de Havilland Chipmunk and the spark was lit.
“I was hooked ever since,” Alex said. “I signed up for flight lessons that very day and the rest is history.”
He soon completed his private pilot training and has now earned a commercial pilot certificate. What started out as just a hobby soon became a legitimate career option for Alex, but because he doesn’t come from a family with deep roots in aviation, Alex had to make his own connections and figure out how to go about things by himself.
Professional Pilots of Tomorrow, an organization that aims to provide confidential, insightful, and unbiased mentoring to up-and-coming pilots hoping to get a position in the airlines or other avenues, has made things just a bit easier for Alex and others in similar positions.
“My mentor, Matthew Sclafani, is the assistant chief pilot at Endeavor, so he’s really been able to give me an inside look at what the airlines are like,” Alex said. “My instructors are now all at the airlines. They’ve been able to give me an in-depth picture of what it looks like and they’ve also put me in contact with pilots from different fields, such as corporate pilots. They’ve opened my eyes to different possibilities. I’m actually trying to go the route of a corporate pilot.”
Had Alex not discovered PPOT a little more than a year ago, he’s not quite sure where he’d be on his path to an aviation career and is happy he stumbled across it online.
“I’ve been able to ask my mentor different questions about training and which route to go,” he said. “I’ve asked him if me not going to an aviation school is putting me at a disadvantage and is it worth transferring to an aviation school to get the training there. He’s told me I’m going down a great path right now and as long as I’m staying current and proficient, there’s no reason getting a chemistry [degree] at a liberal arts school is any different than getting an aviation management [degree] at say, Embry-Riddle.”
Professional Pilots of Tomorrow is an affiliate organization of EAA. Youths involved in EAA programs such as Young Eagles are encouraged to seek mentorship through PPOT to strengthen their overall aviation knowledge as well as learn more about the career opportunities within the industry. If you’re interested in the mentoring opportunities that Professional Pilots of Tomorrow offers, connect with them online.