AviatorCast Episode 17: Hangar Talk w/ Capt. Mike Swanigan: Alaska Airlines Captain | Talking Flight Podcast | Airline Pilot | Blogger


Today’s Flight Plan

This turned out to be such an awesome interview with a genuinely incredible guy. I was honored to sit down with Captain Mike Swanigan of Alaska Airlines to talk about his career, his love for flying, and what type of advice he’d give pilots today.

But that’s just the start!

“Swani” tells us all about his time in Alaska (the state) and when he finally decided to learn to fly. He learned through the Air National Guard, a difficult experience which he shares. Then onto C-130, building time flying from Alaska to Hawaii.

Finally he achieved his dream of flying for Alaska Airlines, but the work was just getting started. Now Swani had to work his tail off, taking positions at the airline that no one else would take, and facing challenges no one else dared. He’s certainly not a hero for during so, but he was rewarded handsomely, being highly respected by his peers and spending time in the upper leadership of Alaska Airlines.

Mike’s true passion is flying the line and interacting with this crew, passengers, and the challenges that come with flight. Apart from that, the simple joy up ‘standing up the throttles’ and thundering down the runway is his true joy.

You’ll find Swani’s love for flying contagious. I know I did! This is a podcast worth every second of your time.

Useful Links

Mike’s “Talking Flight” Podcast


Mike Swanigan

A huge thanks goes out to Mike Swanigan for joining us on this show. Mike, it was a true pleasure, and I know that our listeners are going to be buzzing about this one. It’s even one I go back and listen to, so I can imagine they will, too!


Big thanks to Atrasolis for providing the great music for our podcast. Please check them out on their Facebook Page or SoundCloud and get the music you’ve heard for free.


Major thanks to the amazing Angle of Attack Crew for all their hard work over the years. Our team works incredibly hard, and they’re very passionate about what they do.

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Chris: This is AviatorCast episode 17, cleared to climb unrestricted.
Calling all aviators, pilots and aviation lovers, welcome to AviatorCast, where we close the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Climb aboard, buckle up and prepare for takeoff. Here’s your host, Chris Palmer.
Chris: Welcome, welcome, welcome aviators, you’ve landed at AviatorCast. My name is Chris Palmer. From Boeing to Airbus, Cubs to Cessnas, Cirrus to Mooney, Beechcraft to Gulfstream, you name it, I’m in love with all flying things. And, I feel so blessed to have flown just a few of those. I’m the founder and owner of Angle of Attack, a flight simulation training company which is bringing you this podcast today. AviatorCast is a weekly podcast where we talk about the spirit of the aviator. We believe flying is an art form, one that we have to continually practice and master. This mastery is gained through a focus on continual learning, human factors, humility, and a commitment to excellence. Each episode of AviatorCast will have real flight training and flight simulation topics or an interview with an inspirational and influential aviator. Our desire and mission is not only to create awesome aviators, but also bridge the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Show notes, transcript, community discussion and links for this episode can be found by simply going to AviatorCast.com.
Thank you for joining us on this, the 17th episode of AviatorCast. It is an absolute pleasure and honor to have you here with us enjoying in this passion for flying things, and taking in all these information that we have for you. We’ve been so lucky recently to have had great, great, great interviews with so many great individuals. I just can’t thank these people enough for the time that they’ve spent coming on this show, and it’s truly a service to you. It really has nothing to do with me. It’s really getting the message out there on how we can do better and how we can grow our passion for flying, and through that passion, engage our mind and our hearts into being even better than we already are. So, this episode of AviatorCast is absolutely incredible. I just can’t say enough about how much I love what’s coming up here.
But before we get into that, we have a great, short and sweet review from OldDirtyCracker from the United States, perhaps the best username I’ve seen so far. He says “Like flying when you can’t fly, five stars. Great entertainment and continued learning. Feeds your AV craze and gets you in the spirit for your next session.” Thank you OldDirtyCracker, that is much appreciated, thank you so much. If you want to leave a review on iTunes, you can do so. That helps others learn about AviatorCast so they can enjoy all of these great episodes that we have. So today, I am honored and humbled to have Captain Mike “Swani” Swanigan with us. Captain Swanigan is a captain for Alaska Airlines, and as you will learn through this episode of AviatorCast, he has quite a story about how he got started, how he built his hours, and how his career has gone at Alaska Airlines and where he is now, why he loves being an airline pilot so much, and this is just one of the most enjoyable episodes. You’ll just be sitting back, just listening to Mike talk about his story and you’ll just be totally enthralled. So let’s not hold off anymore. Let’s get right to it. Here is hangar talk with Captain Mike “Swani” Swanigan.
Now, a special hangar talk segment.
Chris: Welcome everybody. We have a very special guest with us today. We have Captain Mike Swanigan. How are you doing Mike?
Mike: I’m doing fine Chris. How are you my friend?
Chris: I’m doing really great. I’m excited to have you on this episode of AviatorCast. You have a podcast, that’s how I learned about you. It’s called Talking Flight and apart from it being a really great podcast, you know, it’s kind of this style where you sit down with some of your colleagues there at your airline but not only that but you fly for an airline that I really admire, maybe I’m biased, but that is Alaska Airlines, so I’m really excited to have you.
Mike: I love that. Thank you. I love that you have that bias, I have it too.
Chris: I really do. In fact, when I was just starting out with my private pilot, my dream was actually to become an airline pilot, that’s what I wanted to do at that time. My ideas of kind of what I want to do with my career have changed since then, but I remember going back to Alaska for the first time as a 19-year-old and flying out of Seattle and cutting through total IMC, some breaks here and there and you can see some really beautiful stratus layers, and then after we were talking with the pilots and I just really loved each and every part of my experience with Alaska Airlines and honestly, it’s always been like that for me. It’s always been this, it’s been great every step of the way, from using their website to how the pilots operate to just their overall approach to business, and from what I’ve learned from your podcast, it’s very much something you’ll love too and not that you would say any different but you love Alaska Airlines too.
Mike: Yeah. It’s a great company. It’s just been a dream come true spending all these years working for them as a pilot in various capacities. I cannot think of another company on the planet that I’d rather work for than Alaska.
Chris: Great. Yeah, they’re top-notch. And they fly to the great white north and so they get me home or take me away and there’s a very special place in my heart for that too.
Mike: Well yeah. Flying in the state of Alaska, you know, I’m from Anchorage. I don’t live in there, I live in Seattle but I have to tell you Chris, every time I fly into the state of Alaska and we start descending and that scenery comes into view, I’m just awestruck. It’s still, after all these years, it’s still magic to me.
Chris: Yeah. I love that. I always wonder what the view was like up front.
Mike: It’s amazing.
Chris: Every time I go up there, if I’m going home and it’s kind of a day flight, I try to get on the right hand side of the airplane so I can see all the mountains coming in. It’s just beautiful. Beautiful area.
Mike: Yeah, exactly. Fabulous state.
Chris: We want to learn a little bit more about you. Why don’t we learn, first of all, this is kind of the question I ask everybody. First of all, just introduce yourself, kind of who you are, what you do, where you are, and I think we’ve touched on a few of those so far, and then how you fell in love with aviation, and this is actually admittedly something that I took from your podcast, because it immediately gets the core of who we are as aviators and pilots, is how did we first fall in love with this because largely that never goes away. It starts and it just keeps on trucking, so tell us how you fell in love with aviation.
Mike: Well, I was an Air Force brat and my dad was in the Air Force and so I grew up around airplanes, and I liked them. My parents always said I had a strong interest in airplanes from about the age of 18 months. But there were a lot of other things that I liked too. I was a first grader and I was attending the Holy Spirit Catholic School in Los Angeles, and one my classmates brought in a model of the Boeing-707 and it was an American Airlines Boeing-707. The 707, it just come out, I was like six years old so that would have been 1957. That’s about the time that the airliners first showed up, the jet liners first showed up, and I saw that model airplane and I said “That is what I am going to do.”
Chris: Wow.
Mike: And that was kind of the start of it. And I never wavered from that goal. I mean, there were some detours and stuff and things along the way but it was always the endgame for me and never changed.
Chris: Okay. So, great on the beginning of your, I guess how you fell in love with aviation there. So tell us about when you actually got into your training, what that was like, where you were, and actually, I’m just going to let you have the floor if you will here, and just lay out for us what this entire process was like for you. This might take a while so you and I will have a little bit of a back and forth, but take us from the beginning to how you built hours and then eventually I suppose we’ll end up where you got hired by Alaska which I don’t know how long there is between point A and point B there but let’s find out here.
Mike: Okay. It’s a little bit of a rocky road, so you’re going to have to bear with me Chris. So I had this interest in aviation and growing up as a military brat, I got some bad advice along the way. And that advice was “If you’re going to be a military pilot and learn how to fly in the Air Force, don’t do any serious flight training because they’ll teach you one way and the military will teach you the other way,” so that’s the first thing I want to get out. Worst piece of aviator advice I ever got in my life and I got it from several sources growing up. But in Anchorage, I was a member of civil air patrol and we learned a lot about aviation and civil air patrol. We rode around in military airplanes and then the civil air patrol airplanes, and then I went to England on an exchange program with civil air patrol and I went to the Royal Air Force Glider Training School at Spitalgate England and in the Royal Air Force it’s a lot different than in the United States and elsewhere. They start all their pilots off in gliders so I went through the basic glider program at Spitalgate and learned how to fly gliders, so that was my first time actually soloing an airplane without an engine was a glider and it was just amazing fun.
Chris: That’s pretty unique.
Mike: Yeah. So I did that. I was pretty young, 18, and to back up a little bit, I went to West Anchorage High School and they had an aviation program there. Up until that point, I had been playing the trumpet in a band and they had this aviation program that opened up and I thought I’d love to do that but the only way I can make room in my schedule for it was to quit playing music and switch over the aviation and I did. So I went to the class and a gentleman named Mr. Crow was a teacher and we immediately connected. I did very well in the class, and for the top students in the class, they awarded a scholarship to go solo out at Merrill Field.
Chris: Oh wow.
Mike: Yeah. I think I was 16 at that time. But I went up to Merrill Field and started the Solo program, and the instructor, I had one instructor there, and he was very intimidating and a little bit of a screamer and I did not do well to be quite honest with you.
Chris: It’s not a good environment.
Mike: No, but I didn’t know anything. I was 16. I didn’t know. And this guy made it even more terrifying than it probably should have been. So when we get to the end of it and I wasn’t able to solo out, and he sat down with me and just said “I don’t think you’re cut off for this Mike. You might want to go do something else. I just don’t think you have it takes to be a pilot.” I mean, that was his opinion, and that’s pretty devastating blow for a 16-year-old to be told that, but I just kind of went with it. But I did go to the glider school after that and I did very well at glider school so that kind of erased that. So then I went to college at University of Alaska and then in 1973, I tried to get in the air force through the officer training program, and there was a problem. The Vietnam War had just ended and the air force wasn’t taking any pilots. So I said “Well, I got to come up with plan B here. I got to make a living and whatever,” so I decided to become a banker. Started off at the Alaska USA Credit Union in Anchorage on Elmendorf Air Force Base, and I did very well with that. Moved up the ranks in that department, became a loan officer, and in 1975, I was making a loan to this colonel, what I thought was an air force colonel, and I said “Yeah, I tried to get in the air force. That was a dream, didn’t work out for me,” and he said “Well, I’m in the air force but I’m part of the Alaska International Guard.” And this gentleman’s name was Paul Lindemuth and he was the Director of Operations there.
I said “Well, I really wish I could’ve done that,” and he said “Well, you know what, you could do it through the guard.” I said “Really?” He said “Yeah. We’ll take you. You have to come down take the test and everything and make sure you have the aptitude and get past our screening and everything, and security checks and background checks.” We’ll send you to air force jet pilot training. You’ll fly with the air force and get your wings and get fully certified then you come back and fly with us as a weekend warrior for the Alaska Air Guard. And he said “But you know, you’re going to have to take a two-year leave from the bank, from Alaska USA, are you willing to do that?” And my response to him is “I will ask them for a leave and if they say no, I’m going to quit.”
Chris: Yeah. No kidding.
Mike: Yeah. I was [inaudible-00:15:52] bank. But I talked to Alaska USA and they were just great. They just said “Hey, what a great opportunity for you. We will hold your job.” There are some protections under the federal law for reservist people in the military, but they went above and beyond. They said “Hey, we’ve got this one. Whenever you are ready to come back, you can do this.”
Chris: Great.
Mike: So I went to the application process and I got a letter back. I had a little bit of a medical issue according the air force and that was I had some minor issue with my EKG. I went through, jump through a bunch of hoops with the medical people and all that, and then I got a letter from the Department of Air Force saying “We’re very sorry but we are rejecting your application for Air Force Pilot Training.”
Chris: Man, come on.
Mike: Well, you know, it was a rude hit. So I made up my mind and said “Okay, if I’m not going to go to the air force, I’m going to put my mind to the other. I’m going to go out and become a civilian pilot and take the civilian route for it.” I was at that crossroads. So I started making some calls and I had the money and had a pretty good salary working for Alaska USA and got rolling to get these things set up. I was in the process of getting this set up, and I get a call from the International Guard at Kulis at Anchorage International Airport, and they said “We’ve got orders for you to go to pilot training here.”
Chris: What?
Mike: Yeah. For about a split-second I started to say, “what about this rejection letter I got?” but I didn’t.
Chris: Good for you.
Mike: I didn’t. So I went down there and they processed me to go. But I knew this boogeyman was out there with this EKG thing, and so I get to San Antonio Texas to start what they call flight screening, and the first thing they do is give you a physical. I thought, “Well, here it is. They’re going to figure this thing out and throw me out.” So I went in for the physical but the only problem with the physical was my pulse rate was like 110, and they said “Your pulse rate is too high and this isn’t going to be acceptable and we will probably have to eliminate you if this isn’t fixed,” and I go “What are we going to do?” and they said “Well over the next week, we are going to have you come in twice a day and we’re going to take your pulse rating.” And the first couple of days I came in, it was really high. Interestingly enough in this flight screening class that I was in and flight screening is where you go learn how to fly. You start offline, you get 10 hours of instruction in a suped-up Cessna-172, it was called the T41. So that was the program, and I was going through with the very first women pilots in the airforce. There were 10 women. They were the very first pilots so it was kind of a historical event. I was in that class with these ladies, and it was a brilliant stroke of luck because one of those women pilots was a woman named Susan Rogers. She was a captain and she had been a nurse. And I was telling Susan, I said “I’ve got this high pulse rate. I don’t know what to do. I’ve never had a problem like this before. They’re going to wash me out. This is horrible.” And Susan said “Well you know, I used to work with a cardiologist and he’s over at Wilford Hall Medical Center here in San Antonio. I’ll see if we can get in and go see him.
So she set it up, we got in the car, I went and visit this cardiologist. I wish I could remember his name but I can’t. And he says “Well, where you from?” I said “I’m from Anchorage,” and he said “Well have you ever spent a lot of time in heat like this?” It was like a hundred degrees every day and we had to do physical training, go run and do all these stuff and it was in San Antonio Texas. I said “Well quite honestly no,” and he said “I think you’re dehydrated. So I want you to start drinking everything you can get your hands on that does not have caffeine or alcohol. So drink all the orange juice, lemonade, water. Just start pounding it down.” As soon as I did that, the pulse rate came down and I got cleared.
Chris: Wow.
Mike: It was just amazing stroke of luck but still that EKG was floating around the back of my head that this thing was going to pop up, and these guys will go “What are you doing here? You’re not supposed to be here, go home,“ but I never said a word, and I really didn’t look too many people in the eye either, just trying to keep a low profile as I tried to slide out of the radar and go do this. I made it through flight screening and got sent off to Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma. So I had 10 hours in a Cessna-172 and a little bit of prior glider time and then I had that disaster in the Cessna-150 back during that flight scholarship I had. So I’m heading to Vance Air Force Base with maybe 25 hours under my belt, and next thing I’m flying is a T37 jet. I got there and I was the only guy in my class that did not go to the Air Force Academy, and the reason that was the case was the Vietnam War had ended, the air force wasn’t taking any pilots so the only people that they were letting in to pilot training were air force academy graduates, but the International Guard had slots and they were guaranteed slots and I got one of those from the state of Alaska and there I was.
So I showed up in pilot training and my classmates, they’re all Air Force Academy graduates, they’re all squared away, pretty sharp guys, so they’re looking to me like “Who’s this clown from the Alaska International Guard? He’s obviously not as cool as we are. He didn’t go to the academy or whatever.” So we go at the training and training was a struggle for me. I was overwhelmed. To be thrown into a jet that quickly, I was overwhelmed. I did not think I was going to make it through. In fact, I was sure I was going to wash out. I’m always the kind of guy that tries to figure out how to make the best of every situation, so I said, “Well, let me tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to see if I could hang in this program long enough so I could solo in the T37 jet, so I’d say I flew a twin engine air force jet all by myself, and then I’ll wash out.” So that was my goal. I just got to dig deep and try to figure out a way to get to that point where I can solo then I’ll wash out and all will be good.
So I did and struggled but I powered though it. And they had these things that you were supposed to do by certain points like making instrument approaches and whatever at certain points in the syllabus, and early on, I had looked at that go “There’s no way I’m going to make that gate,” and if you don’t make those gates, they send you on your way. But I hit the gates right at the deadline. I suddenly gained proficiency right when I was supposed to and I soloed in the T37, and it was just amazing taking that twin engine jet and soloing it and bringing it back. But by the time you get to the solo point in T37s I suddenly realized I only had a few more weeks left and then we’d go to the T38 for advanced training. So I said “Well, if I just hang on just a little bit longer just to go say I flew a T38 then they can wash me out then I’d go home.” So this was the mindset of a young guy, 24-year-old guy in pilot training.
So I finished the T37 program and went on to a T38, and the first time I flew in a T38, that airplane was so fast and so overwhelming. They’d take you for what they’d call a dollar ride. I remember the instructor was flying and I remember the instructor pushing the throttles up and next thing I knew we’re at 10,000 feet. I don’t know how it happened, it was so fast. And I’m thinking “Well, I’m going to wash out of this thing pretty quickly.” So, I started flying and I was progressing. I was making the gates and finally I said “Well you know what, all I have to do now is solo in the T38 and then I’ll wash out.”
Chris: Yeah. Little targets.
Mike: Yeah. It was little targets but I was just thinking that there’s no way I’m going to make it through this, but I was just stretching just a little bit further at a time, figuring I was going to be gone, going to wash out but I was going to make the most of it. So next thing I know I soloed in a T38 and then we were doing a lot of formation flying where you have to fly three feet away from the airplane next to you, and I thought “No way, I wouldn’t be good at that. They’re going to wash me out for that.” But all of a sudden I cleared that and now the end was in sight and I graduated.
Chris: Wow.
Mike: And graduation day was an enormously satisfying day to me. I was just one of the best days of my life because here I did something I didn’t think I was going to be able to do. But the lesson, I’ve kind of learned a life-long lesson going through that process that has stayed with me to this day, and that is whenever you get an overwhelming task that’s you, no matter what it is, try to break it into little pieces and do the little pieces one at a time and see how far you can get, and you always wind up making it through and getting to the end.
Chris: Yeah. I like that a lot. That’s really great.
Mike: Yeah. So I went off to, they sent me to Little Rock in the C130 training. I learned how to fly the Big C130 which was a culture shock going from a T38 to a C130.
Chris: No kidding.
Mike: Yeah it was. Again, I got into that C130 and I said “No way we all fly in this thing,” because the T38, you’ve thought about moving the stick and the airplane would turn. The C130 had a yoke, it turned its yoke and nothing happened for a second, so I turned it more and nothing happened for a second. I really turned it and the airplane almost flipped upside down. And I remember we had a master sergeant who was a flight [inaudible-00:27:44] riding with this. I think my first flight in a C130 scared the daylights out of him because I was just over-correcting. I just never flown anything like that. He flew with me on the first ride and then I had like two more rides and then he shows up for ride four, and by ride four I had it figured out, and he pulled me aside and he says “I cannot believe the progress you’ve made.” He said “I thought you were the worst pilot I had ever seen on that flight.” And I looked at him and I said “Well I thought I was too.” So I went through there and came back. The Air Force released me back to the Guard and came back to Kulis Air National Guard Base in Anchorage International Airport and the guard took me in. They were just the greatest group of people. Pilots of all types of backgrounds. We had bush pilots that were in the National Guard. We had Airline Pilots who were in the National Guard. We had corporate pilots and I flew with these guys. They took me under the wing, they thought me and basically treated me like a rock star and just had a great time flying with the Guard.
So you asked me in our conversation before we started, you talked about the building time parts, so that’s kind of leads us to… I don’t know if you want to go there.
Chris: Yeah sure. Let’s go there.
Mike: Yeah. So now, I’ve been travelling on Alaska Airlines since I was a kid and I always thought it would be really cool to fly for Alaska Airlines, and one interesting note in pilot training, I was the only guy that knew what airplane I was going to. Everybody else has to fill out what’s called a dream sheet, and then the air force will see if they have a slot for you and then they award it on class rank or what slot people want. Well I knew I was getting the C130 to the Alaska Air Guard. That was a done deal the day I started. So when they handed out the dream sheet, I wrote down… they had one in front of me, the guys was just pass them all up, forgot I was guard, so I filled it out and I put a 727 at Alaska Airlines.
Chris: Great.
Mike: That was on my dream sheet. And everybody laughed, thought it was hilarious and everything. So now, that was the goal and I was flying for the guard and building up time and got knocked off from the Credit Union. I take off in the afternoons and go fly the C130 around the local area and then I was able to do a lot of flying to Hawaii with the International Guard because the Alaska International Guard flew airlift missions for the Hawaii Army National Guard. So the army troops, our army national guard troops in Hawaii needed to get their parachute jumps in, so they would send us out in [inaudible-00:27:44.] We’d fly down Friday morning, I’d take a day off in the credit union. We’d fly down Friday morning and get into Honolulu on Friday evening or afternoon, and then get up Saturday morning and take these army guys up and take them to their drop zone, drop them at the back, in a few hours later we’re done, and then we’d hang around Hawaii and then fly back Sunday Night to be back at our civilian jobs Monday morning.
Chris: Goodness.
Mike: So I did that and built a lot of time.
Chris: That’s a lot of time building just that.
Mike: Yeah. C130 was like 8-1/2 hours to Hawaii from Anchorage so if I remember, 8-1/2 to 9 hours, so built a lot of time doing that. Then the National Bank of Alaska made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I wound up being the number two guy in their consumer loan division and the head of their car leasing subsidiary, and it was called mobile lease. So I went to National Bank of Alaska but I kept doing it, and then I heard Alaska Airlines was interviewing and that was in 1979. So I got my application in and I got called in for an interview at Alaska Airlines and they interviewed me, and I really didn’t think they liked me. It was a bit of a stretch. There weren’t very many pilots of African-American descent in the airlines at that time, so it was a little bit of a hurdle to get to break in at that time. It’s a lot different but that’s how it was. I interviewed with Alaska and I just got the feeling that they didn’t like me. But what they told me was, they said, “You know, you still need some more flight time. You’re a little weak on flight time, you need to build some more flight time and we’ll take a look at you down the road. But just the way it was presented to me, it just didn’t feel like they were really interested in me or really liked me.
Chris: Sour sips in your mouth.
Mike: Yeah. I don’t know if it was sour but it was just like, “I don’t know. I don’t think these guys really like me.”
Chris: And they said “Keep sending us updates,” and I left there, I said “I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to waste my time doing that.” So I go back to the bank and life’s good at the bank and so “Well, I’m just going to be banker.” I have a wonderful job for National Bank of Alaska. Outstanding bank to work for just like Alaska USA was. These are great companies. And I was happy. I was going along. Then one day I got this phone call from Alaska Airlines about a year later, and it’s the same guy that interviewed me. He said “What are you doing?” I said “I’m working for the bank.” He said “Are you still flying?” I go “Yes sir, I am.” He said “We haven’t gotten any updates from you. How come you haven’t sent us any updates?” And I just kind of say “Well, I don’t know.” I thought you guys hated me. He says “Well, come on down for an interview.” So I went down to interview and they hired me.
Chris: Wow.
Mike: Yeah. And I’ll never forget the interview. They kind of told me what to expect. They said “You come to work. If we hire you, you will start off as a flight engineer on the 727 and you can expect to be a flight engineer for about 10 years, and then you’ll spend 10 years as a co-pilot.” I was 28 and the retirement age at that time was 60. “And maybe if you stay out of trouble and do a good job, you’ll spend your last 12 years as a captain here. And oh by the way, we’re going to furlough every winter for the first three or four years you’re there. That was the deal and I was just glad to do it because I had the guard to go fly with when I was furloughed, I stayed in the guard. I got hired and sure enough, that first winter I got furloughed and the guard sent me off to Europe. I went flew the European System, flew the C130 all over Europe with the Alaska Air Guard, they deployed over there, and had a great time, then got recalled at Alaska and came back. Got recalled in Alaska expecting to get furloughed the next winter and I was all excited about maybe flying in Australia or some other place next winter when I get furloughed, then Alaska let me down. They didn’t furlough me.
Chris: They let you down.
Mike: They let me down. They didn’t furlough me. Just kidding. So yeah. They didn’t furlough me and then they started hiring and then I became instructor flight engineer and I had a great time doing that. And then at the three-year point in my career at Alaska, I upgraded to co-pilot.
Chris: Oh wow.
Mike: So I was a co-pilot in the 727 and then at the 4-year point of my career in Alaska, I had a chance to go fly the 737-200 out of Anchorage to fly to the Arctic to Nome and Kotzebue and Barrow and Bethel and Fairbanks and around the state of Alaska. I was able to bid that. I got the bid way out of seniority because at that time, that time, the training program on that airplane was brutal. It was brutal. They had a washout rate approaching 50% of people that tried to upgrade to that airplane, and I had a double whammy because number one, I’ve never flown a 737 and it was surprisingly different than flying a 727, and I was going from the right seat of the 727 directly to the left seat of a 737. But look, I went through Air Force pilot training, I figured out how to fly a T37, a T38, it can’t be that hard, so I did it and did it and got the position way out of seniority because a lot of people didn’t want to touch it.
Chris: Yeah.
Mike: And I said “Well it can’t be that hard,” and I was wrong. It was the hardest thing I ever did. It was harder than air force pilot training. It was brutal.
Chris: Wow. Why is it so different from any other aircraft type?
Mike: It was the training philosophy at that time. It was going from a 3-pilot to a 2-pilot, and the training program is what I would describe, there were certain individuals at that time who were very adversarial, and so it just wasn’t a pleasant deal to go through. The best part of that program and the reason why I think I made it to the program, I had an instructor named Terry Smith, and Terry Smith is a pretty famous Alaska pilot from the state of Alaska, and Terry thought me the fundamentals that ultimately allowed me to power through that thing and get to the other side and make it so. Terry passed away a few years ago and he was always a big part of my heart because he saw that I could fly and was able to give me the right instruction to get me through it. Anyway, I made it through it so I wound up there. I did flew the arctic for three years and then in 1987, went back to Seattle to fly the 727 as captain, and then became a check captain on the 727 in 1988, so I spent a lot of time in the simulator, checking and training pilots and it was really rewarding. I trained so many of our pilots, and I always kept in mind, there were two things I learned going through the 737-200 program and that’s one of things I’ve done in my whole career too is try to learn from every situation. There were some instructors that were adversarial and somewhat demeaning. I learned from them what not to do.
And then instructors who were encouraging and helpful like Terry Smith, I learned what to do. So I applied those lessons to instructing and I was a very successful instructor. I had a very, very low failure rate. Only a couple of people I just couldn’t figure how to get them through it, but anytime I had somebody that was training, that was struggling in training, I took it upon myself. I figured it was a failure of my teaching rather than their failure, and I would lay awake at night trying to figure out how to reach them and get them though it and generally the light bulb would come on in the middle of the night, come in try something new and sure enough they’d be fine.
Chris: Great.
Mike: So I did that and it was good. So I did that for several years and in 1992, I switched over to the 737-400. That was the new airplane that replaced the 727. I became an instructor on that airplane. It was an interesting transition to that airplane in a dual capacity. Both as a pilot being qualified on it and at the exact same time simultaneously as an instructor and check airman on the airplane. Because it was fairly new airplane, they were just transitioning that fleet. So I went to that training and immediately out flying the line. Just about every first officer I had was trainee. We could see airplane, we were getting a bunch of those airplanes and we’re trying to get everybody trained. Only a few with a couple of fully qualified first officers that first couple of years. Most of the time I was in the training capacity training people and I was fairly new to the airplane in some ways. In other ways I wasn’t because I had 737-200 time, so it’s a variant of it, of the same airplane, just had a lot more electronics in the glass cockpit but as far as actually stick and rudder flying the airplane, it was the same. If anything, it was more stable than the 737-200.
Chris: Yeah, wow.
Mike: So I did that. Then in 1993, there was kind of a training problem that happened with some of the check airmen at that time and the chief pilot at that time and they had to be removed, and I was on a trip flying to Anchorage and that was on Anchorage layover and I got a call from the vice president of flight control at that time, a guy named Bill Bossier and said “Swani, we have a problem here. We’ve had some personnel changes and whatever. Would you be willing to be the acting chief pilot for Alaska Airlines?
Chris: Goodness.
Mike: And I said well “I’m kind of a jet driver. I just want to drive jets. I like instructing and driving jets.” I said “How long do you think that will be?” He said “Here’s the deal. You’ll do it for 90 days. We’ll bring in a new vice-president of flight operations. There was an investigation with the FAA going on. We want you to work with the FAA on this investigation, get it behind us and get us through it, whatever, and we figured about 90 days that will be over and then the new vice-president of flight ops will come in and then he will pick his own person that he wants for chief pilot.”
Chris: Yeah.
Mike: So that was the deal and I said “Okay, great.” Then the new vice-president came in, a guy named George Bagley. He came up from Horizon Airlines. Great guy, I really like him and like working for him but I was totally under the assumption he was going to hand-pick somebody that he want in that position and I’d be gone in 90 days. And that was the deal. I was happy with it. It was fine with me. The investigation lasted longer so we’re about 180 days into it. George comes to my office, closed the door and says “Well, I’ve got my guy for the job.” I said “Great!” He said “It’s you.” “What?” I said “Okay. Yeah. I could do this but I tell you what, I’ll do it for 4 years. I came here to drive jets because I had an office job being a banker.”
Chris: Right, exactly. That’s what you left.
Mike: That’s what I left, to go fly. He agreed and he said “Okay. We’ll do four years.” I said “We’ll do four years, great. And then four years, I’d go back to the line, back to flying the airplanes.” As chief pilot, I could fly a little bit but not as much as I really wanted to.
Chris: Right.
Mike: So we got two years into that and John Kelly who was a CEO at that time came in and closed the door and I figured he had figured I was fraud by that point, he was going to throw me out. You know, when the CEO walks to your office, comes in, sits down and closes the door, it’s usually not good.
Chris: Yeah.
Mike: “Well, he figured out I’m a fraud. I’m out of here.” Close the door and he said “You’re my new vice-president of flight operations.
Chris: Goodness. One thing after another.
Mike: And I said “What?” ”You’re my new vice-president of flight operations. Well I was very loyal to George. George was one of the best bosses I ever had. George Bagley was one of the best bosses I ever had. I said “Well, what’s George doing?” “Well, he’s going off to be the CEO of Horizon. Chief executive officer of Horizon, and you’re going to take his place.” And I said “Well John, I don’t know. I’m not sure I’m ready for that. I’m not sure I really want to do it.” And John said “I’ve got this plan in place and my whole plan’s going to fall apart if you don’t do this.” And John Kelly was always very good to be the CEO and I’d liked him, I loved working for him, this great guy. So I said “Okay John. Four years. I’ll give you four years then I’m out.” For some reason four years was in my head. And I know when you take a job like this you need some amount of continuity in it, so I’ll give your four years and I’ll do it. So I did four years and at the four-year point, I gave my notice and it took them about nine months to find my replacement, and I went back to the line flying.
Chris: Great.
Mike: And then, continued as an instructor, flying the 737-400 and of course during that time, we wound up getting the 737-700, then the 900 and the 800, and no we’ve got the new 900 ERs and I instructed until about 2008, 2009 somewhere in there, and one day I had an epiphany, I was done instructing, and I’m just going back to flying the line full time. When you’re instructing, generally you’re like one month in the training, part of one month on the line, and I just wanted to fly full time, so I went and did that and that’s my story taking us up today and I’m sticking to it.
Chris: Wow. I had no idea you were so engrained in the leadership of Alaska Airlines. That’s pretty amazing.
Mike: Yeah. It was chance to serve in the leadership but one thing I learned in those jobs was the higher up that you go in an organization, the more bosses you have. Do whatever you think “Hey, I get the top, I’m the boss, everybody has to do what I say.” But if you’re leading properly and doing your leadership role correctly, you’re working for everybody that’s serving beneath you. Of course, you’ve got your bosses on top but all of the pilots and all of the people that report to you, your job is to figure out how to make their job easier and how to make them effective at their job, figure out what barriers, obstacles, and what tools they need to do their job better and provide leadership. That’s what I came away from that with.
Chris: That makes a lot of sense. So what is it about being on the line that you enjoy so much? Because I would think that that’s a bit counterintuitive to where most people want to go with their career, right? They’d want to kind of move up the ranks. What is it about the line that you love so much?
Mike: Chris, that’s a great question. I could tell you. It’s when I pull that airplane on the runway and line it up in the runway and then tower comes, give us clearance for takeoff, and I stand those throttles up and start rolling down that runway and then rotate and pull that nose up in the air and leap into the sky, it’s still a rush after all these years. I cannot do without a smile or a grin in my face to this day.
Chris: Wow.
Mike: That’s it. And there’s more to it too. I love crew flying. We have a two-pilot airplane. We work very closely together. There’s lots of stuff that needs to be done in a two-pilot airplane. Sometimes in demanding environments like flying in the New York City Airspace going into Newark or in the Los Angeles or even in a bad day, flying into Juneau, Alaska, there’s a lot of teamwork and you feel like you’re playing on an NFL team and you’re dealing with things that come along, dealing with adversity, dealing with things going well and you’re make it happen and you get people to their destination safely. It’s an enormous feeling of satisfaction.
Chris: That’s how I thought it would be, is it would almost have to be something emotional and spiritual like that where it is something like lining up on the runway and it’s all about that and that core love and passion for flying than it is really anything else. I know that there’s, especially listening to your podcast, I feel like I know you a little bit but I know that it has to do a lot with the camaraderie that you have with the day-to-day operations with not only the pilots that you get to work with but with the passengers and all the little intricacies that go into that. I can imagine that there are a lot of really great things about just doing that not necessarily simple work but that fundamental work on the line if you will. It’s just different from anything else.
Mike: Yeah. And it’s different everyday. Every flight is different. Flying an airliner is very cerebral. You’re not just like pointing it from here or there, you’re dealing in three-dimensions. You’re dealing with energy. You get that airplane going up and going, it’s not just “Well, let’s just go land.” You have to do a lot of mental calculations on when you should start down and it’s a real cerebral exercise in operating the airplane.
Chris: Definitely.
Mike: So we have a little bit of time left here. One of the questions I had here. Before I get to that, one thing that I actually noticed as I was sitting there listening to your history and perhaps what some other people brought out of that too was it seems like you were in the right place at the right time, time after time. If you wouldn’t had been working at Alaska USA, you wouldn’t have met the colonel from the Air Force. It just seems like time after time, you were in the right spot at the right time to get those opportunities that you had, and I think that some of that is purposeful, right? I think that as you’re going through the ranks, you should be putting yourself in those situations, right?
Mike: Yeah. You know, there was a lot of luck involved in that. Tremendous amount of luck. I hear a lot of people say it’s where opportunity and preparation meet. Anyway, I was just extremely fortunate. That’s the only way I can describe it. I think one of the things that helps that too is if you try to make your interactions with everybody you come into contact with as positive as possible.
Chris: Right.
Mike: That seems to open doors. Yeah. Timing was everything. Going to Alaska. We started off and there were just only 11 jets and now there is 130 some jets now, so a lot of it was pure lack and I’m just so grateful.
Chris: Yeah. Definitely. Going back to what you said, treating people really well. I noticed in your email signature getting ready for the show that it says “Be good to each other.” Is that right? Is that what it says?
Mike: Be excellent to each other.
Chris: Yeah. Be excellent to each other, even better. Yeah. I love that.
Mike: Yeah. I stole that from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. That movie came out about the time you were born.
Chris: Yeah. I’ve actually seen that show before. Pretty good.
Mike: It’s a great movie. That’s my leadership philosophy and I try to make it my life philosophy. Sometimes I’m better at it than others, I’ll tell you that right now.
Chris: Yeah. Definitely. We all have our drawbacks too. So we’ve heard a lot about your career and you have a very interesting and colorful story if you will. There are so many different steps you took that are unique and something that we can all learn from that process. Kind of not taking no for an answer from when you first started to solo and someone told you that you kind of weren’t cut out for it, and then even going through the medical process with the air force, there were a lot of points you could’ve given up. And then just your perseverance through those difficult times in training, being excellent to each other, and it seems like that aspect of you are just as a person really helped your career at Alaska Airlines. I’m sure that your talents obviously and your skill have a lot to do with that but also who you are as a person. So along those same lines, in that same vein, what advice and encouragement will you give to perspective pilots and those trying to get where you are, those people that have that same dream, those people that saw that proverbial model of a 707 and they want to get there. Especially with the new 1500-hour rule which in a lot of case is actually a good rule and you can’t really get to Alaska with less than that anyway. But what advice will you give to these people because I know that this is something that you tried to draw out of your interviewees on your Talking Flight podcast.
Mike: Yeah. The thing I would say is there are more than one way to skin a cat, to use that old cliché. Sometimes I see people who aspired to do this, the people that don’t make it, they come up with just one halfway to get there, and if the door closes on that pathway, they don’t seek out other pathways to reach the same destination. For example when I first got that letter from the air force saying that “we’re not going to take you,” I was in the process of mapping out how he’s going to do this as a civilian pilot and do it that way. So yeah. You just don’t give up and figure out how to do it and sometimes you have to make sacrifices. There have been some people that we have mentored. I am friends with a lot of people that you’ve heard in that podcast. We’ve gone in to mentor some individuals and they ultimately were willing to make sacrifice. One fine young man I knew that we kind of helped set him up so he could do it but he didn’t want to be away from home, be away from his wife, to go up to Alaska and build his time to make it and gave up. It’s his choice and that’s what he wants to do but that is how I see people that aspire that not make it.
Chris: Right.
Mike: The other thing is, don’t be too good to do something. When I first went to Alaska Airlines, there were some people I knew that said “Oh, you’re going to go there and be a flight engineer?” Because in the guard, we were aircraft commanders and co-pilots and now we’re going to have to go to the third seat at Alaska because that was how it was set up. Several people have said to me, “I wouldn’t do that.” I’m a pilot and I’m not going to go be a flight engineer. I thought it was just an amazing opportunity to go be a flight engineer because the best part of being a flight engineer coming to Alaska Airlines, I did my flight engineer job and I could watch these veteran pros work and see how they did things and I learned so much just sitting that seat, doing it. It was a huge opportunity. Some of those very people that said that to me that they would never do that whatever, later when I was a captain in Alaska, I’d see them again, they’d tell me I was the luckiest guy in the world. And actually if they would’ve applied, they would’ve been hired before me because they were more qualified than I was.
Chris: Yeah, definitely.
Mike: So yeah. So that’s the big thing. If you really want to do this, you got to figure out how to do it and then do what it takes to get there.
Chris: Definitely.
Mike: And then, be honorable. Be a good employee. If you wind up working for someone, do a good job. I mean, first thing that Alaska Airlines did when I applied to go to work for them, they went to National Bank of Alaska and Alaska USA. They had the goods on me by the time I got there. So that follows you, and the aviation community is pretty small, so if you’ve got a reputation of being a knucklehead, it’s going to pop up and bite you down the road. Just be diligent, be trustworthy. My friend Paulo Takis on a podcast we did said that you got to be trustworthy. People have to trust you because ultimately if you want to be an airline pilot, you’re applying for a position that ultimately will have you sign on a dotted line for a $175 million dollar jet and 190 passengers on-board, taking that responsibility, and they’re not going to assign a knucklehead that responsibility.
Chris: Yep. Got to be on top of your game at all times.
Mike: Yeah. You got to be on top of your game at all times but don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If you make mistakes, own up to them. Stand tall. And my motto in flying the airplane is, one of the things I worked really hard at is not making the same mistake twice.
Chris: Definitely.
Mike: And grow from it.
Chris: And you know, you actually interviewed a woman pilot on your podcast. I don’t remember her name.
Mike: Latisha Shupert.
Chris: Yeah, that’s her. And she actually had an aircraft accident earlier on in her career. I think it was the day before her commercial checkride or something, and from her perspective, Alaska Airlines actually saw that as a positive of her interview and she thought it would be negative but she had learned so much from it that it really changed her attitude as a pilot and as an instructor and she engrained into her own students in her psyche and really made a big difference. So yeah, it’s not about those mistakes.
Mike: And that was a setback. It wasn’t even a mistake for her. The airplane quit.
Chris: Right, yeah. It wasn’t her fault at all.
Mike: But going to what you’re saying Chris. I did a lot of pilot hiring, and one of the questions we ask a pilot is “Have you ever failed a checkride?” And some people think that if the answer to that is yes that they will never get hired. That’s not the answer we’re looking for. What we’re looking for is why did you fail it and then what did you do about it?
Chris: Right.
Mike: I remembered interviewing one guy who had failed a checkride and then he tried to yabba dabba do and cover up for it and tried to make it sound like it wasn’t a check, he hadn’t failed and whatever but it was clear that we figured it out and we didn’t hire him. Whereas if that same guy would’ve said “You know what, I was a fairly new captain for this regional airline at that time. I underestimated what it would take to prepare for a checkride. I went in there, I got burned. I made a decision that I would never ever let that happen to me again.” That’s the answer we wanted to hear.
Chris: Right.
Mike: For example, I did that one time. I showed up on a checkride on the 737-200 and there is a lot of memory items that you have to do before a checkride, things you don’t use from day to day, and I’ve shown up not that well-prepared for the oral evaluation, did not do well on it all. Fortunately, it was the best flying check I’ve ever taken in my life, and the check airman who happen to be Terry Smith by the way who I talked about earlier. Terry said “You know, I was thinking about busting you for that oral but you did such a good job flying that I’m going to pass you.” And I looked at Terry and I said “Terry, you have my word that this will never ever happen again,” and it didn’t. That’s the kind of advice I’m trying to give people. If you make a mistake or come up short somewhere, figure out how not to let it happen. It’s what you do next over what you did.
Chris: Right. Definitely. And you know that, that recurrent training, just as kind of a side note, that recurrent training is there for a reason. It’s not just a reason to pass it off and move on, it’s there to improve already stellar and professional airline pilots to become even better at what they do.
Mike: Yeah. My friend Doug Burton who was the director of training in Alaska uses the term “I’m here to polish the apple.”
Chris: Great. So kind of one last question. One thing that always passes through my mind and we’ve already alluded to this before. Latisha I think you said her name was talked about this on that episode that you had. How do you balance your family life with being an airline pilot? I think that’s one of the biggest concerns people have when they want to reach for that type of career. It seems like you’ve done a fairly great job of it. What’s your secret sauce there?
Mike: One of the secret sauce I got from an article in airline pilot magazine and I’ve saved it at one point but I haven’t been able to find it, and it was called “The Care and Feeding of an Airline Pilot’s Life.” It had a bunch of little things in it that always stuck with me, so if you take off, and fortunately in Alaska Airlines, our schedules are built so it’s not like flying for one of the international carriers where you’re gone for two weeks. We’re gone for maybe a three or four-day trip during the week and then we’re home. And now in my seniority, I flew day trips. But when I was flying, from time to time when I do fly those three or four-day trips, I know my wife is left rot in the family, and when the girls were younger, running the family, and dealing with everything while I was gone. So first night back from every trip, where do you want to go out to dinner? “We go out to eat and you get to choose my dear wife.” My wife says “You get to choose.”
Chris: That’s great.
Mike: Because I know she’s been home dealing with everything, I’ve been on the road, stand-in hotels. The last thing I want to do is go out to eat after coming home from a trip.
Chris: Yeah, no kidding.
Mike: That’s the last thing I want to do. But you know, you do it as far as taking of your spouse and your wife. One of the things I always did at the end of every day of flying, first thing I do is call her “Hey. I’m down. I’m headed the hotel. I’m safe,” or call her from the hotel. And now we got this little thing where everytime I land for the last time on the day, I’d send her a text message, it says “JL” that stands for “just landed.”
Chris: Part of your shutdown checklist.
Mike: Part of my shutdown checklist. As soon as the shutdown check complete, I’m lighting up my cellphone and send in that “JL.” So you do that and actually I think for my wife, being a corporate wife was harder for her when I was at senior levels at Alaska. It was a much tougher job for her than me flying because I was always at work even at home. There were phone calls. I had vacations interrupted, something happened, we’d have an event or whatever, and have to go deal with it. I remember once we did movie night, we’re going to movie night and dinner and I’m on my way. There is a deal where my daughter plan. I have my girls plan these things when they’re grown up. Okay, it’s a family date night. You plan everything. You have to go to the newspaper, now it’s the web. Go to the newspaper, find out what time the movie is running. Do the time management problem of when we have to be at dinner and call my office, let me know what time I had to be there and teach the kids the etiquette of calling and making a reservation. We did that, prepare our girls for life. I’m out on one of these dates and then all of a sudden we had an airplane filled out with smoke. It was an MD-80 filled up with smoke at San Francisco, and passenger evacuation.
I was on my way to dinner when it happened so I turned around and headed back to deal with that problem and open up command post so we could deal with that problem. Anyway, caught up with them at the movie and my daughter who had planned the whole thing looked at me and says “Dad, I want you to smash that pager up. I don’t like that.” So it’s things like that. I thought it was harder but still you just got to always be thinking about your spouse and what you do to make their life easier. Again, it’s like a leadership position in a corporation or on a crew. What could I be doing to make the people who are supporting me, make their job easier and provide them with more support. You build an incredible level of loyalty by doing that.
Chris: Right. And we’re talking about one type of relationship here. I think that’s a great attitude for life in general you know, not just with the spouse, but with kids, with your friends, with whoever, I think that’s a great attitude anyway.
Mike: Yeah. That’s the whole philosophy and it works. I tell you it works. It works well.
Chris: Great. Well, I want to thank you so much for spending time with us today. I know that the listeners of AviatorCast will absolutely just love what you’ve had to say and love to have hear your experiences. Are there any last words you have for the listeners?
Mike: Yeah. Since a lot of your listeners are pilots, I give all my aviator friends and fellow pilots this one critical piece of advice in flying airplanes, and that is “Don’t touch the dusty switches.”
Chris: So what’s wrong with the dusty switches?
Mike: They’re dusty for a reason.
Chris: I’m going to have to leave that big long pause in there. That’s great.
Mike: Yeah. They’re for a reason. It’s just kind of an inside joke. Pilots are curious by nature “What does this thing do?” If you don’t know what it does, you probably shouldn’t mess with it dude.
Chris: Yeah, no kidding.
Mike: That’s just kind of a joke. It’s just kind of a humorous thing that I always tell my aviation friends, and when anybody asks me for a bit of advice, that’s what I give them.
Chris: Out of all your career, that’s what you come up with. Great.
Mike: That’s what I come up with. I know it’s horrible.
Chris: Well, thanks Swani. It’s been an absolute pleasure. Guys, I’m going to give you some direction after we’re done with our conversation here to go and check out Mike Swanigan’s podcast. Really great. It really inspired me and actually largely believe it or not Mike, I listened to your podcast before I had started mine. I was in the process of getting mine up and running and getting ideas and really actually committing myself to this long-term and out of all the podcasts out there that I listened to, yours was one of the absolute best. It was just personal and it went to the core of what I love about flying and I could hear that love of flying not only from you and your podcasts but also from the great pilots at Alaska Airlines and the other individuals you interviewed, but much appreciated, so thank you so much for your contributions and for being with us today.
Mike: Well Chris. Welcome to the world of podcasters. I’m fairly new to it as well and it’s just so exciting to do this, and you do a great interview. Nice job.
Chris: Thanks. I appreciate it. Take care Mike. We’ll catch up with you some other time.
Mike: Adios.
Chris: See ya.
I’m guessing you feel a lot like I do after that interview. I am just totally on cloud nine. Mike’s story is just so inspirational and so amazing and I really love the discussion, we got into at the end about why he wants to be an airline pilot or rather wants to be flying on the line and some of the family stuff that’s involved there and being excellent to people. Really great stuff. Mike, thank you so much for coming on the show. I know on behalf of everyone listening to AviatorCast, I can say thank you and we really, really enjoyed this, and thank you for being such an influential part in aviation. And I want to invite you, the AviatorCast listener to head over to iTunes or another source. I got his podcast through iTunes but head to iTunes. Just search “Talking Flight” and you will find Mike’s podcast there. This is a much different format from AviatorCast. Mike sits down with many of the wonderful professionals at Alaska Airlines and they talk about much like the story we heard from Mike today about their careers, what it was like building hours and then getting that interview with Alaska Airlines and what it’s like now flying for them and then some of the challenges that come with that in between. I think you’ll find many of those stories absolutely inspirational and very easy to listen to and we got that with this episode of AviatorCast too. Mike is just such an easy guy to talk to and listen to and much, much thanks goes out to him for his contribution with us today to be here.
So, apart from that, go check out his show. I absolutely know that you’ll find some amazing interviews there that you’ll love and it’s just one of those other things that will ignite your fire if you will and keep you going. So, we’d love to hear your thoughts about AviatorCast. You can truly shape this show and the topics we provide. Go ahead and take a quick two-minute survey if you will at Survey.AviatorCast.com. Say that you want to be a part of the AviatorCast community or leave a comment, you can simply go to AviatorCast.com to join in or write me directly at me@aviatorcast.com. Say that you don’t want to miss an AviatorCast episode, no worries there. You can subscribe through email at AviatorCast.com or iTunes which is the main source of where we put all our effort, Stitcher, YouTube or SoundCloud. There are a lot of different places to get the episodes of AviatorCast completely free and you get them every Saturday Morning at 000 Zulu.
We’d also love to get an honest review from you on iTunes. As I said, that’s our main source. This helps others learn about AviatorCast so they can enjoy it as well and it just gets interviews like this with Mike out there and perhaps it may inspire somebody to go that extra mile in their aviation career like Mike did, just setting those tiny goals to get their eventual goal as being an airline pilot. And you know, one thing I didn’t mention in the podcast and a podcast I’ve been meaning to do just one-on-one with you as a listener is I had some challenges starting up as a pilot as well. I have a fairly serious medical condition in that I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 17. I’m very blessed that I don’t have any symptoms from that. I’ve been blessed in that sense, but it was very difficult to get my pilot’s license and I’ve had a lot of no answers during that process. And even right now, I’m kind of waiting for another medical application to go through, so I recognize the challenges as well that can get in our way to achieving our dreams. So anyway, I know AviatorCast so far has inspired many people out there to go out and bet their licenses or start that process and just take the next step, so sharing in a source like iTunes or somewhere else will allow someone to potentially take that next step and that’s a big thing. That’s why I don’t want anything out of AviatorCast other than it just being out there and it being of use to people. That’s the paypack that I get.
So, in closing, I just want to also give a huge shoutout to the Angle of Attack crew for all they do behind the scenes to make these episodes possible. Really, really appreciate that. These guys are just stellar and they do such a fantastic job, and it allows you and I each week to sit down and to have a wonderful conversation, and yeah, it’s just really great. I hope you’re enjoying AviatorCast. Thank you so much for joining us on this episode. We are truly grateful to have you here, part of our community and so engaged in this wonderful passion for flying things.
Until next time, throttle on!


This entry has 8 replies

This is the first episode where desktop simulation wasn’t mentioned. I guess that is because of Swanney’s age. I would have been interested to hear of his attitude to the subject. A nonetheless fascinating interview.


chris. today, i passed my 737 oral. thank you (and jason) so much for putting such a great 737 program together–your product was money and it gave me an unrivaled foundation for 737 ground school. once again, thanks!

Wow, that’s pretty impressive! Glad that it helped you so much! I can certainly see how it would give you a leg up.

Chris, could you post the transcript, please? Can’t seem to get it.

Greetings from Singapore! Thanks for this great podcast because it is so informative and inspiring!

By the way, anyone of you will be attending the EAA this year? If so, will be happy to meet you there!

Oh really? I am actually! We should plan on having lunch or something!

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