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From pushing-back planes to flying them: Taking the long road to realize the dream

Although fulfilling his dream took longer than planned, Captain Emanuiel “Mott” Cooper is proud to fly for a company who made a lasting impression on him years ago as a ramp agent in Columbia, South Carolina. While his office looks different working in the flight deck, Mott reflects that he has never forgotten where he came from and the lessons he learned while working on the ground.

He strives to share his knowledge with crew members for a better understanding of that side of the operation, the challenges Ground Handling agents face and how to work better together to accomplish the same goal.

Originally from Florence, South Carolina, Mott took flight lessons at age 16 and later moved to Florida to attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University majoring in Aeronautical Science. After two years, flight school debt was mounting so he decided to begin working in the aviation field to save money to complete flight school later.

In 2008, Mott returned home to South Carolina and decided to visit Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE) to see which airline was hiring. He was interviewed by Piedmont and offered a job as a ramp agent two days later. “I wanted to work in the operation to soak up as much knowledge as I could,” says Mott. “I enjoyed working with a team to get planes in and out safely and on time. It was a great experience.” Working around aircraft gave him the opportunity to speak with pilots, ask them about their path and ask for advice they may have for him as an aspiring commercial pilot. The advice was mostly encouraging him to stick with it, even though the process could be long.

After two years, Mott left Piedmont and moved to North Carolina to continue pursuing his pilot career. He completed two years at the University of North Dakota’s satellite campus in Lumberton, North Carolina, obtained his private pilot license and became a certified flight instructor (CFI) in 2010. While attending school, he worked as a ramp agent for Atlantic Southeast Airlines at Fayetteville Regional Airport (FAY) to save money to build his hours.

Mott sent his resume everywhere to chase the hours he needed to obtain. He moved to Opa Locka, Florida where he worked as a CFI at Wayman Aviation; worked at a skydiving operation in Chattanooga, Tennessee; flew in the Dallas area and moved to Detroit to fly Lear jets and Falcon 20s all over the world.

When he obtained his required flight hours, he began applying to airlines. Mott signed paperwork to join a regional carrier and thought his mind was made up. “The chief pilot came in to welcome me and asked if I had any other interviews,” Mott recalls. “I told him that I had an interview with Piedmont that next week. He encouraged me to go to the interview and said that it was important to explore all options to make sure I was happy with my decision.”

Mott interviewed with Piedmont and was anxious to hear what they had to offer. The recruiter shared information about the sign-on bonus, retention bonus and the guaranteed flow, with no additional interview, to American Airlines. “It was an offer I couldn’t refuse, and I said yes on the spot,” Mott shares proudly. “I’m glad I took my time in choosing the right airline and not jumping at the first offer. I used to be the one pushing planes into position on the ramp and now I am a captain flying those same planes.”

As a ramp agent turned pilot, he sees the larger picture and recognizes that it is a team effort both above and below the wing. “Sometimes crew members don’t understand what’s happening outside when things aren’t going smoothly with the ground handling operation and I remind them that our colleagues are out there in the rain while we are nice and warm in the flight deck. It’s important we both respect the job we each have to do.”

In addition to sharing his Ground Handling operation knowledge, Mott says that he has increased situational awareness in the flight deck, something he brings with him from his time on the ramp. As a pilot, he talks to passengers and recognizes that as Captain, he must be aware of what he says and how he says it, especially during irregular operations. “I’ve learned to be more personable with our customers,” says Mott. “Sometimes I leave the flight deck and make announcements during irregular operations. I want to help the passengers understand what is going on.”

Mott is invested in Piedmont and hiring the next generation of team members. He has participated in hiring events with the FLO General Manager Renee Lunn to encourage local students to consider a career with Piedmont and looks forward to supporting recruiting efforts across the organization. He wants the local students to know that there are opportunities with Piedmont; he made it happen and so can they.

Mott says he is blessed to do a job he loves and provide for his family. “At the end of the day, I want to keep Piedmont’s safety culture going and return home safely to my little girls.”

Interested in joining an airline with a smaller, tight-knit pilot group with guaranteed flow to American Airlines? Piedmont welcomes you to join our team. We are hiring pilots and offering up to $187,500 in bonuses to join our team. To learn more, click here.