Confessions of a Former Airline Pilot

Confessions of a Former Airline Pilot

Stop the Presses!

thomas tom block Confessions of a Former Airline PilotAudio-book-size-version LoCONGRATULATIONS

to retired airline captain and Audio Narrator Thomas Block, for receiving the coveted status of Approved Producer by ACX, Amazon’s Audible platform.

If you don’t already know, Mr. Block is the narrator for all of my audiobooks, from the Last Bush Pilots to the There I Wuz! series!

Congratulations, Captain Block!

Of course, my books are also all available in Print or ebook as well, along with my Code Name: Dodger Spy/Fly series, at:

This week, we have the good fortune chat with a former airline pilot buddy of mine, Mr. Ron Budnick.

Paul Ryan and Me Confessions of a Former Airline Pilot

Ron (R.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan

While Mr. Budnick is now an FAA Aviation Safety Inspector for the Denver FSDO (Flight standards District Office—we’ll hear more about that in a later post!), he came from a background as an airline pilot.

But, that is only half his story.

I wanted to share Ron’s story with you today, because his is inspiring for today’s upcoming pilot. But, also, a cautionary tale as well.

Ron’s tale is inspiring, in that, mid-career, Ron ditched his boring, if lucrative, computer career, and devoted his life full-time to chasing his dream. To become an airline pilot.

Guess what: he made it!

In an amazing feat of intense focus and dedication, in his mid-thirties, Ron took up flight training (he’d already had his Private Pilot License.) He made it directly to the majors, with an intermediate stop at Chataqua Airlines.

Yes, people, it can be done!

But, this career can also be incredibly brutal. And this is where the cautionary portion of Ron’s story kicks in. We’ll leave it to Ron to fill in the rest.

Confessions of a Former Airline Pilot

by Ron Budnick

-FO TWA 2001 Confessions of a Former Airline Pilot

TWA First Officer Ron.

I have absolutely no regrets pursuing my aviation career. It’s the journey . . . and there’s more to come on the horizon!Ron Budnick

 It was a long journey getting to the major airlines flying my first airplane as a First Officer, the MD-80 (DC-9) with Trans World Airlines (TWA.) I’ll spare those gory details for my own book (LOL!)

It was really the terrorist events of 09/11/2001 that changed aviation history in this country and landed me in Denver as an ASI (Air Safety Inspector) about nine years later. By December of 2001, I became furloughed (laid off with recall rights—ed.) from TWA, soon to be American Airlines.

I was in kind of a holding pattern, hoping to return to the big iron.

Oh, I’ll certainly leave out the details of personal financial and family devastation that occurred during this period of time, too. It was happening all around me in varying degrees with many other people.

In any case, after nearly 2 years on-the-streets, so to speak, I returned to flying with a regional air carrier. It was as a captain qualified First Officer on the Jetstream 4100 turbo prop. A step backwards in my career, but flying again. Kind of a “holding pattern,” with hopes of returning to the big iron at AA. After just over three years of disappointing, fatiguing and low-paying regional airline flying, I made a personal situation a matter of priority (my daughter).

I essentially quit the regional airlines. I ended up as a ground and simulator instructor on the EMB-145 jet airplane at FlightSafety International (a Part 142 training center), an airplane I also flew briefly at the last regional airline. After just over 2 years teaching, I was finally terminated in April, 2009 due to continued work-force reductions as a result of the financial market and real estate crises.

To make matters worse, the pilot’s mandatory retirement age was changed in December, 2007 from 60 to 65 years, and fuel prices soared. As a result, the airlines weren’t hiring, but furloughing. Again. The outlook of recall to AA was now another 5 years off, at least.

It was around May of 2009 that I made application to the FAA as an ASI (Air Safety Inspector) and continued searching for other work opportunities. I was unemployed for about eight months, then was offered part-time employment back at FlightSafety to teach for about five months. No guarantees beyond May. No more students assigned, and no known opportunity for full-time employment status.

The airlines weren’t hiring, but furloughing. Again.

The interview at the FAA Denver Flight Standards District Office (FSDO)  couldn’t have come at a better time. After taking a flight test, I was officially offered a position in July, 2010, and moved from St. Louis to Denver to start as an ASI in late August.

As an FAA Inspector, I never really get to fly, myself. Too many other financial priorities than renting or buying an airplane. Besides, there is something lost inside me for flying—it just doesn’t seem the same anymore. I’ve “lost that loving feeling.” Time to watch the movie Top Gun again!

That said, I have absolutely no regrets following my passion to become a private pilot at an age of 20 years ‘young,’ on my own, during my enlistment in the Navy.

Ronbo & Miss Colorado Confessions of a Former Airline Pilot

FAA Inspector Ron, uh, “ramp checks” Miss Colorado!

Absolutely no regrets separating from military service, then spending four years in college earning my Bachelor degree in Aviation Management/Industrial Technology.

Absolutely no regrets pursuing my aviation career and making it to the right-seat as an airline pilot with a major air carrier—TWA! Absolutely no regrets returning to government service as an Aviation Safety Inspector with the FAA.

Despite not returning to the military after graduating college to become a Naval Aviator, I have really no regrets in my decision to stick with an aviation career, regardless of the job I’m doing.

It’s the journey . . . and there’s more to come on the horizon!

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-Captain J31 CHQ Airlines 2000

J31 Cap’n Ron at Chautauqua Airlines

Confessions of a Former Airline Pilot

Thank you, Ron, for your story, and sharing with us your enlightening attitude!

Once again, folks, through Ron, we learn the hard way that this can be an ugly, brutal business for the upcoming pilot. You can do everything right, but timing and luck have the ultimate say. As a result, as I am always harping on you here on the blog . . .

By all means, chase your dream of becoming an airline pilot, but relish every moment of your career, no matter how far it takes you.

From the very first moment you set foot in that cockpit for your introductory flight . . .

You’re ALREADY living your dream!

This is Cap’n Aux . . . Signing off!

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Touching down 2/14

Best of Cap’n Aux—2016!


Our Annual Roundup of the Best Of All Cool Things Aviation!

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On Final Approach

Touching down 2/25

Sanity supercrop

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the sky . . .