World Pilots’ Day: Ben Coats

What inspired you to become a pilot?

My first flight was in military school (high school) when one of my fellow cadets and I flew a Cessna 172 from Shelby, AL to Marion, AL. I’ve been hooked on flying ever since. Ten years later, after graduating from college with a degree in chemistry, I was finally able to fund my dream. That was more than 20 years ago!

How long have you been a pilot and with what airline/company?

I currently fly for ExpressJet Airlines (or will when the COVID-19 threat is past). I used to fly for SkyWest Airlines and Colgan Air. I have been flying since September 1999. I did begin flying after I graduated from college as an undergrad, and when I finished my flight training, I went to graduate school.

What has been your favorite travel memory?

My favorite travel memory as a pilot was when I had an opportunity to fly two Cessna 172 airplanes from Wilmington, NC to Halifax, NS. It was a wonderful way to explore most of the Atlantic coast with the exception of flying the Skyline Route up the Hudson River between NY and NJ.

Another memory was when I lived in Fairbanks for a year as a teenager. I flew up from Atlanta and my dad and I drove back to North Carolina a year later. While there, I learned to ski, ice skate, and cook. I experienced my first earthquake and blizzard. The drive back was so amazing along the Alaska Highway into western Canada’s and then the US. I got to see the Aurora Borealis, some very remote breathtaking scenery, and some unusual wildlife during that year and on the drive back.

Where are you looking forward to traveling once it’s safe to do so?

I have visited 49/50 US States in my life as a pilot. When we resume our flying, I would like to visit Hawaii to complete the list! Then, I can’t wait to visit all of the Canadian provinces.

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