Next destination: From business owner to “the best job in the world”
As a successful business owner for over 25 years, PHL-based First Officer Allan Bald knows the importance of positive interactions with customers, creating and maintaining a good working environment, and the power of caring for people. As a Piedmont pilot, he brings his prior skills and knowledge gained as a business owner to create a positive working environment inside and outside the flight deck.
From owning a vehicle repair shop and later an upscale grocery store, he believes you must treat everyone with respect. “You have to build trust and take care of people,” Allan shares. “I have thousands of bosses (our flying customers) and if we don’t treat them with respect and show that we care, they will take their business elsewhere. We all represent the airline.”
As a pilot, Allan brings a wealth of past knowledge when working with crew members and customers. “I want to create a positive working environment by motivating others and bringing our crews together,” says Allan. “I love the people I work with, from my fellow crew members, gate agents and ground crews. We all have to work together for the success of the airline.”
Allan makes himself available to customers and likes being present when they deplane. “One time while sitting in the boarding area, a passenger approached me and was expressing anxiety and asking questions. I was happy to answer all his questions to alleviate his fears. Hopefully I made his experience a better one and he will return as a customer.”
Originally from New Hampshire, Allan joined the Navy after graduating high school and served four years in Holylock, Scotland on a submarine tender. After leaving the Navy, he owned and operated a vehicle repair and gas station for over seven years. He sold the business and seeing a franchise opportunity elsewhere, opened a tire warehouse in Laconia, New Hampshire in 2000. He opened a second location and operated both stores for almost two decades. In 2012, Allan opened a high-end grocery/butcher store in Amherst, New Hampshire called The Flying Butcher.
With a love for aviation, he obtained his private pilot license and has been flying his own aircraft since 1995; but becoming a commercial pilot seemed out of reach. While operating the gas station, he frequented the nearby airport and set aside one hour a day to fly. With the drive of wanting to own an aircraft and maintaining it himself, he completed a Vans RV8 experimental aircraft from a kit that took five years to build. The aircraft can reach heights of 20,000 feet and he flies it all over the United States.
Allan befriended a retired airline captain and the two had conversation about an aviation career. “My friend shared that there was a pilot shortage and I should look into it,” shares Allan. With the added encouragement of his wife, he decided now was the perfect time to go after his dream.
“I called Piedmont and talked to a recruiter. I told them that I was 51 years old and asked if there was any way they would be interested in hiring someone with single engine experience,” he reflects. The recruiter advised him to obtain his multi-engine commercial instrument rating and call them back when he completed it. “I had a mission. I went to the airport every day and obtained my rating in 30 days.”
Allan achieved his dream and was hired as a Piedmont first officer in June 2018. “I was surprised they took a chance on me at my age,” shares Allan. He chose Piedmont because of the small pilot group and the existing opportunity with a regional airline to be more visible to the passengers. “I’m probably one of the few pilots flying who is here for the joy of it. Owning the grocery store is my source of income, this is my fun job!”
Allan is grateful for not one, but two jobs that he enjoys. “When you think a ship has sailed and then your dream comes true, the feeling is indescribable. I do this job not because I have to but because I love it. At age 55, I feel like the luckiest guy in the world.”
In his spare time, Allan is making progress on building a second aircraft from a kit, a Vans RV10.
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Next Destination is a Piedmont feature series that highlights our aviation professionals who joined Piedmont after working in a different career field. Piedmont is proud to recognize our team members for their contributions to the success of the airline.