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From below to above the wing and beyond

From working in the hangar to the flight deck, First Officer Dean Durbin was maintaining aircraft long before he decided to pursue flying one. His previous experience as an aircraft maintenance technician (AMT) in both the military and with commercial airlines benefits him as a pilot.

Growing up near Baltimore, Maryland, Dean’s father was mechanically inclined and passed that skill on to his son. After graduating high school, Dean served in the United States Air Force as a phneudraulics technician working on C141s. “I was always attracted to airplanes and enjoyed being around them,” shares Dean. When Dean separated from the Air Force, he decided to obtain his Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) license to work on commercial aircraft. He began working in the composite shop for Northwest Airlines in Minneapolis (MSP) and later transferred to Reagan International Airport (DCA) to work on A319s and A320s. Dean was furloughed after 9/11 and later hired with DynCorp/Amentum at Andrews Air Force Base as a flight line mechanic supporting the 89th airwing – which includes Presidential aircraft.

Using his GI Bill from the military, Dean attended flight school and obtained his private pilot’s license and necessary ratings to fly commercial aircraft. He accepted a job to fly for Northwest Airlink but at the time Dean had two small children and commuting to his base from home was difficult. It wasn’t the right time for his family and his dream of becoming a commercial pilot was put on hold. He returned working for DynCorp/Amentum.

When Dean’s children left for college, he decided to revisit becoming a commercial pilot. In December 2019, he joined Piedmont because of the proximity to where he was based to his home, which was great for commuting.

“Becoming a pilot is the best decision I’ve ever made,” shares Dean proudly. “I enjoy interacting with different people from customers and pilots to flight attendants and ground crews. Having worked above and below the wing, I have an appreciation for both sides of the operation.”

Dean says his previous experience as a mechanic helps him as a pilot. “My knowledge of aircraft systems was useful in initial pilot training and as a pilot, is good knowledge to have. I developed an all new appreciation for our team members on the ground working in the elements to get our planes off the gates.”

Dean encourages any mechanic or aviation professional interested in flying to pursue it. “I’ve met many people in the aviation industry who wish they had their pilot’s license. With the shortage of pilots and all the incentives being offered, now is a great time to consider it.”

When he isn’t flying for Piedmont, Dean runs a general aviation aircraft business where he completes owner-assisted annual inspections, routine and non-routine aircraft maintenance. He has actively participated in Angel Flights, a non-profit organization that flies families that are in need for medical treatments. Following in his father’s footsteps, Dean’s son attended ATP Flight School and is now working as a Certified Flight Instructor with aspirations to become a regional airline pilot.

“Becoming a pilot was a great decision in my career path and I am all the more successful as a pilot thanks to my previous experience as an aircraft maintenance technician.”

Piedmont is hiring pilots and offering the highest regional pay in the industry and bonuses up to $180,000. To learn more about what Piedmont has to offer, click here.