Behind the Wings: Living the American dream
In Bulgaria, First Officer Petya Sheeva couldn’t work as a pilot because general aviation was non-existent, and her country’s military only accepted male pilots. With little money and not knowing anyone, she left her home country at age 23 to pursue her dream of flying in the United States. Petya worked multiple jobs to earn her second bachelor’s degree, obtain her commercial license and reach her goal of becoming a commercial pilot.
“America is the land of opportunity,” says Petya proudly. “If you have the desire, passion and are willing to put in the work, you can achieve so many things in this country. In the United States, I could apply for bank loans, obtain scholarships and be involved in an aviation community where people help each other succeed.”
When Petya began her career journey, she wasn’t aware that only 6% of pilots are women. She says she never felt intimidated or let that stop her from her goal. “Women are not always exposed to pilot careers,” she reflects. “I believe some women just need the encouragement. It’s not always easy but there are so many resources for advice, support and connection.”
While living in Bulgaria, Petya obtained her first bachelor’s degree in Marketing but realized it was not something she was passionate about. Even though she had never been exposed to flying growing up, she was fascinated at the thought of becoming a pilot. Her grandfather had unfulfilled dreams of becoming a pilot and encouraged her. When Petya decided to pursue her dream, she first chose to obtain a second bachelor’s degree in Aviation Management. While in school, she had an internship with the Massachusetts Port Authority at Boston Logan Airport working in the aviation security department. She also worked in hotels, restaurants and as a gate agent to save money for college. She obtained her bachelor’s degree from Bridgewater State University and continued her pursuit.
After receiving her commercial certificate, Petya worked as a pilot flying a single engine PC12 airplane and continued building her flight hours. A year and a half later, she obtained the required hours to apply with a commercial airline. She recalls meeting a Piedmont recruiter at her school’s career fair but researched different airlines. “I began to make friends in the industry, and they spoke highly of Piedmont and their flight training department,” says Petya. “I have learned that I work better in a smaller group because there is more sense of community and family. The smaller pilot group at Piedmont was attractive and I decided to apply.”
Petya was hired as a First Officer with Piedmont in October 2021 and began flying the line in February. “I still can’t believe I am here doing a job I love,” shares Petya proudly. “From onboarding and flight training to flying the line, my experience with Piedmont has been great. It’s a dream come true.”
Sometimes when walking through the terminal, Petya is mistaken for a flight attendant but takes it all in stride. She is also approached by passengers who ask questions and commend her. “I encourage any woman who wants to be a pilot to pursue it,” says Petya. “Don’t give up, it’s very rewarding. I started with nothing and still made my dream a reality.”
Piedmont is hiring pilots, Direct Entry Captains and Cadets. With more than $187,000 in bonuses, there is no better time than now to be a pilot. Interested candidates can learn more about pilot careers here.
Behind the Wings is a Piedmont feature that highlights the accomplishments of the aviation professionals who make us Piedmont Proud inside and outside the airport. In honor of Women’s History Month, Piedmont is proud to recognize our female team members and their contributions to the success of the airline and making a difference in their communities.