Adjusting the path to fulfill the aviation dream
First Officer Dane DiPaolo knows how to fly an airplane but as a former flight attendant, he also understands what occurs on the other side of the flight deck door. “As a pilot and former flight attendant, I know how to operate the plane from the front and how to take care of customers in the back,” shares Dane. “Having that knowledge makes me feel like I have a better understanding as a member of the crew.”
Reflecting on his new role from the right seat, Dane highlights the importance of the flight crew. “I’m always thinking about the flight attendant in the back and the fact that they have a lot of responsibility as the only person taking care of 50 passengers,” shares Dane. “They have a lot to accomplish on the ground before we get in the air. Although I was never a solo flight attendant, I’ve been in their shoes and if I can do something to help, I will.”
Originally from Sicklerville, New Jersey, Dane became interested in becoming a pilot after a memorable family vacation in the fourth grade. It wasn’t until after he graduated college that he began to pursue a career in aviation. “As a small child, the thought of becoming a pilot was like becoming an astronaut; it sounded like a cool thing to do but seemed unattainable,” shares Dane. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management from Widener University and managed a hotel. He soon realized that the industry wasn’t a good fit for him. With his customer service background, he decided to research becoming a flight attendant. He admittedly didn’t know much about the position but enjoyed the idea of being paid to travel.
In July 2016, Dane joined United Airlines as a flight attendant based in Newark, New Jersey. He shares that being a flight attendant was a great experience where he was exposed to different people, different cultures and worked with different age groups. After working as a flight attendant for two years, Dane decided to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot. “When I shared that I was interested in becoming a pilot, every pilot I talked to about going to flight school encouraged me to pursue it,” shares Dane. “Not a single person told me not to do it which made me feel like now was the right time and it would be a good decision.”
Dane attended ATP Flight School in Trenton, New Jersey where he obtained all his flight ratings, private pilot license and worked as a certified flight instructor. He received a conditional offer from a regional carrier with another airline but when COVID affected the industry in early 2020, he never heard anything further from the airline. After receiving his 1500 hours, he stopped instructing during COVID and worked as a driver for UPS until airlines began hiring.
When airlines started hiring again, Dane’s priorities had changed, and he realized his top priority was working for a stable company. “The COVID pandemic taught me that we don’t know what tomorrow will bring,” said Dane. “Piedmont didn’t furlough a single pilot during COVID and that, along with being based closer to my family, was important to me.” In October 2021, Dane joined Piedmont as a First Officer.
Prior to joining Piedmont, a close friend had shared with Dane that the flight training program was top-tier. Reflecting back, Dane shares, “It was true, my training with Piedmont was amazing. Everything was laid out to me on Day 1 where each gateway of training was explained. The instructors were very knowledgeable, knew the airplane inside and out and truly wanted us to succeed. I never had an unanswered question.”
Dane says it is common for other colleagues, especially flight attendants to ask him questions about becoming a pilot. He encourages those who ask to go on a discovery flight to decide if it is something they want to pursue. “For anyone considering a pilot career, research the best path to get there,” shares Dane. “The path is different for everyone. I was in a new hire class with 18-year-olds and pilots in their 40s; you’re never too old to follow your passion. When you meet your goal, the feeling will be so rewarding.”
Interested in learning more about a pilot career with Piedmont? Piedmont is hiring pilots High Time First Officers (HTFO) and Direct Entry Captains (DECs) and offering up to $187,000 in bonuses and longevity credits for those with Part 121 experience. To learn more about what Piedmont has to offer, click here.