Hey Adam, thanks for joining us on today for an interview. Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Adam Warr, and I’m currently a 4th year business student at Cal Poly SLO concentrating in Financial Management. I earned my Associate of Science in Business Administration at Modesto Junior College, whereupon I transferred to Cal Poly as a junior in the Fall of 2015. When I’m not in the classroom, I enjoy spending time with friends and meeting new people but what I enjoy most is feeding my lifelong passion: flying! I had my first flight behind the controls of an airplane on my fifteenth birthday and I’ve been loving it ever since. I’m currently a student pilot training with Pacific Aerocademy at the San Luis Obispo regional airport. With about 45 flight hours in a Cessna 172 under my belt, I should be just a short six weeks aways from earning my Private Pilot License! I’m hoping to bring my love of flying to my career. I’ve primarily been interested in applying for full time work opportunities in the aerospace industry. This last summer, I interned at Boeing at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. During my time there, I worked within program management supporting various business functions for the fabrication of Boeing’s Space Launch System. More recently, I’ve accepted an offer from Lockheed Martin where I’ll be working as a financial analyst in Palmdale, CA!
What experiences growing up shaped you into the pilot that you are today?
I can’t remember a time that I ever didn’t want to be a pilot. I grew up around airplanes and was talking about flying soon after I learned how to walk. My dad was an aircraft mechanic in the Marine Corps before I was born and went on to work for United Airlines for most of my life. I think this is really what first sparked my interest in flying from a young age. On my fifteenth birthday, my parents surprised me with an introductory flight lesson at my local flight school. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Who were your biggest influences?
My dad has been a huge influence on me throughout my life, I’ve always looked up to him as my primary role model. He’s provided me with a wealth of valuable lessons in all aspects of life that have helped me become who I am today. Though he’s not a pilot himself, we both share a love of aviation and he has always been very supportive of my flight training. My mom as also played a big role in my life. My mom always pushed me to excel in my academics and has taught me a lot about time management and professional skills. Both of my parents have been my biggest supporters and without them I wouldn’t be how I am today.
What was the spark of your desire to be a pilot and to accept a job at Lockheed Martin?
I always knew I wanted to be a pilot. But when I first started college I discovered a newfound love for the study of business. With the substantial cost of commercial flight training and the relatively low salaries for entry-level airline pilots, I started to consider other career paths. I know I still wanted to work in aviation in some way, even if it wasn’t as a commercial pilot. So I began polishing my resume and applying to any aerospace jobs that I felt I’d be qualified for and was fortunate to receive an internship offer from Boeing for the summer between my junior and senior year. Working for Boeing was an extremely valuable experience. The position itself fell under Boeing’s business segment that specializes in space exploration, which was incredibly interesting to me; however, I knew very little about space flight and was more interested in fixed-wing aviation. Once more I began the search for a career that would better suit my interests. Simply having a work history at Boeing was a significant boost to my resume and I started to receive interest from Lockheed Martin after attending one of their campus seminars. It wasn’t long afterwards that I received an email with an opening that my Lockheed recruiter felt I would be a good fit for. I applied and received an interview only a month later. When I was driving up to the facility on the morning of my interview, one of the first things I saw was an F-15 doing a low pass over the nearby airfield. I remember thinking to myself, “God, I’d love to work here!” I left feeling that the interview went very well, and after a short two week I received the offer letter. Needless to say, I was very eager to accept.
What is unique about your day when you fly?
First and foremost, I’m pretty much always in a good mood on flying days. Especially during the hours the lead up to my scheduled flight time. Another thing is that I tend to pay a lot more attention to weather starting the day before a flight. Weather is one of the most significant variables in aviation and it impacts aircraft of all types and sizes. The conditions outside can affect visibility, engine performance, icing conditions, navigation, and instrument readings just to name a few. It’s incredibly important for pilots to stay up to date on the most current weather information and weather forecasts. Luckily, there are a number of great resources available that provide pilots with detailed weather information briefings. This information is a lot more than your simple weather app on your phone. To some people it may look like another language since most of the information is in an abbreviated format, or pilot language as I like to call it. Pilots are taught early on in their training how to read and understand these reports, and I spend quite a bit of time before each flight checking and rechecking the latest weather reports and forecasts. I’m looking for where the high and low pressure fronts are and where they’re moving, information about the cloud layers in the area and along my route, winds aloft, areas of moderate to severe turbulence, hazardous weather, and hourly ATIS reports at the airfields I plan on flying to or from. I was surprised by how much I learned about weather in ground school, and a lot of it was really interesting. I’ve never quite looked at weather the same way since.
What’s your favorite thing about flying?
My favorite thing without a doubt is landing. I really love just about everything when it comes to flying, but landing is one of the things I enjoy the most. Approach and landing can be one of the most challenging but rewarding parts of your flight. It requires a certain degree of coordination and skill to bring the plane back to rest on the runway and there’s no better feeling than making a smooth and precise touchdown. There can be a lot of things happening at once during approach and a good pilot has to be mindful of every control input and how it affects the aircraft’s flight path. You need to make sure that you’re hitting your target airspeeds at each leg of the approach, make sure that the flaps are configured for landing, maintain the proper rate of descent, compensate for any crosswinds that may be affecting your alignment with the runway, and make appropriate corrections if your glide slope is too high or too low. You can read about it or watch instructional videos all you want but it really comes down to your immediate judgement. This only comes from experience. Even after 170+ recorded landings I’m still trying to master the art, but it’s always something that can be improved to perfection. Make a good approach, stay on glide slope, and butter the bread with a soft, smooth touchdown. I’ll always challenge myself to make each landing better than the last.
Who are the people you fly with? How do you find them?
As a student pilot, I fly with Certified Flight Instructors or CFIs for short. These are the people that train pilots and you’ll need to fly with one for a while if you want to get your pilot’s license or add any additional ratings if you already have one. CFIs are pretty easily found just about anywhere that has a tarmac and a runway. If you’re ever considering flying yourself, you can usually find a flight school nearby just by looking it up on Google. I started my training at Modesto Aviation in my hometown about five years ago, but they have since been out of business. When I decided to start flying again to finish my Private Pilot License, I did a quick search on flight schools in my area and simply enough I found a great school right here in San Luis Obispo at Pacific Aerocademy. I’ve been flying at Aerocademy for a couple months now and I’m very impressed with the aircraft and instructors that the school has to offer. Thanks to my CFI Martin Eggert, I should be a licensed pilot in about one more month from now!
Do you fly solo?
Yes. An important part of flight training is acting as the pilot in command of the aircraft, and there’s no better way of doing that than to fly the aircraft by yourself. Once your instructor feels that you’re capable of flying on your own, they’ll write you what’s called a solo endorsement. This endorsement comes with some limitations to ensure the safety of the student. For example, my solo endorsement allows me to fly an aircraft by myself within 25 miles of the airport with winds no greater than 15 knots and no more than a 5 knot crosswind component on landing. There are additions that can be made to this endorsement when your instructor feels that you’re ready. For example, just last week I received an endorsement that allows me to fly to the airport in Santa Maria. In order to get a Private Pilot License, students must have 10 hours of solo flight time, 5 of which must be “cross-country” flight time. A cross-country flight as outlined by the Private Pilot training requirements is defined as a single flight to two other airports totaling no less than 150 nautical miles, with at least one leg of the flight being 50 nautical miles of straight-and-level flight. Soon, I’ll be flying my cross-country route once with my instructor to Santa Barbara, then to Camarillo, and back to San Luis Obispo. If all goes well on our first flight, my instructor will write me a solo-endorsement to fly that same route by myself. I’ll then solo that route twice before fulfilling my solo cross-country requirement. Then I’ll be one big step closer to my license!
Give the readers the best piloting advice you have.
If you really want to be a good pilot, you need to immerse yourself in aviation. Hangout at your local airport and talk to other pilots every chance that you get. You can learn a lot from other people’s mistakes. I can’t tell you how much I learned from other pilots in just the two years that I had worked part-time at Modesto Airport. There’s also a ton of insightful videos on YouTube that can really help you hone in on areas that you’re not so comfortable with, take the time to pull up some videos and watch how other people perform certain maneuvers and it can really help you once you’re in the cockpit. One piece of advice that has really helped me become a better pilot is to make sure I’m looking outside the airplane when I fly. There were a lot of times that I’d fly with my eyes fixed on the instrument panel trying to make sure everything was perfect. In a way, this can significantly impair your ability to fly the airplane well. It can also make flying a lot more stressful if you’re trying to micromanage every detail on the instrument panel, especially if you’re a student pilot. One day, my instructor noticed this and did something completely unexpected. While I was descending to enter the traffic pattern at Modesto Airport, he grabbed a large cloth taped it over the dash to cover the entire instrument panel. He could see that I was pretty unnerved by this. I didn’t know how I was supposed to make a proper approach without being able to see my airspeed or my altitude, or how I could maintain the right power setting without seeing my tachometer. But he assured me, “just enter the pattern and land the plane, you don’t need your instruments.” I was nervous, but I listened to his guidance and made the turn into the pattern. I pulled the power back for my final descent and flew each leg of the approach relying only on what I could see outside and using the sound of the engine to judge my power setting. As I made the turn to final, I could feel my heart beating out of my chest but from what I could see everything looked alright, the runway was right where it needed to be. And just when we were on short final about a quarter mile from the runway, my instructor yanked the cloth off of the instrument panel with a cheerful, “Ta da!” Everything was right where it was supposed to be. I was resting perfectly on my final approach speed of 70 knots, my power was at 1700 RPMs, and my glide slope was right on target. I had made a textbook approach and landing without making a single reference to my instruments. My instructor said to me, “see? You don’t need your instruments to tell you what you can already see and feel. Don’t get caught up focusing on any one thing. Just feel the controls and be one with the airplane.”
Where do you see yourself and your flying in a couple years?
There’s no way to know for certain where I’ll be or what I’m doing, but I know that I’ll be far from where I’m at now. My life has really accelerated since starting college and I’ve had some amazing experiences and opportunities since. I have every intention of continuing to move forward and better myself in all aspects. As of now it looks like I’ll be starting my career at Lockheed Martin come January of 2018. By then I’m hoping to have moved on to my instrument rating and possibly becoming a part-time CFI. I’m very passionate about aviation and I embraced every opportunity to teach someone something about flying. To be able to actually teach student pilots how to fly would be incredibly rewarding for me, even if it’s only something that I do on the side. I’m especially happy to be working for an industry leader in aerospace and I think working for Lockheed will be a great opportunity to learn more about what I love.
What do you plan to achieve with your flying?
I’m still uncertain at this point whether or not I’ll end up flying for a commercial airline or just work part-time at a flight school as a CFI on the weekends. I want to continue tacking on as many ratings as I can just for the sake of having them and become a more experienced pilot. Once I finish my Private Pilot License, I’d like to move right into getting my IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) certification. This would allow me to fly in weather conditions that my initial license wouldn’t normally permit under Visual Flight Rules (VFR). I’d also like get a rating to fly “complex aircraft.” My flight school currently has a Cessna 172RG, which is categorized as a complex aircraft because it has a retractable landing gear and a constant speed propellor. I’m also interested in getting high performance, multi-engine, and commercial ratings as well.
Entrepreneurship in Your Life
What was one of your best experiences as an entrepreneur?
One of my best learning experiences in entrepreneurship came from working as a fleet assistant at Modesto Aviation. It was a small S Corporation with less than a dozen employees, and I knew the founder quite well as he was my first flight instructor. Being such a small company and getting to know each employee really gave me a great first-hand experience of the businesses operations. Ralph, the owner and my first flight instructor, has a great degree of entrepreneurial spirit. He really showed me that when you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, you don’t set limits for what you or your company can achieve. Unfortunately, Modesto Aviation Inc. dissolved in early 2014 due to a number of factors. But that in itself served as a valuable experience as well. I got to see the ins and outs of the business and understand what we were doing well, and what we were doing not-so-well. It really reinforced the importance of planning and choosing the right business decisions to me. It taught me what it takes to run a successful business and which mistakes to avoid and be mindful of. Because of my time there, I’ve gained valuable insight as to how flight schools operate and how to manage the different aspects of running a flight school efficiently.
What experiences growing up shaped you into the entrepreneur that you are today?
Growing up, my dad and I have had countless discussions about a wide range of topics that I’ve found myself to be very interested in. Though he’s never started his own business before, I feel that my dad has a bestowed quite a bit of his own entrepreneurial spirit in me. He has never set limitations on his expectations of me or what I can achieve. He has always pushed me to do great things and set high goals for myself. Before I began studying business in college, most of my business knowledge came from my father. Having that spark in me that made me want to accomplish any goal that I set for myself has done a lot to build up my interests in entrepreneurship. Working at Modesto Aviation also gave me a great deal of first-hand experience with entrepreneurship in practice. When I started studying Business Administration as Modesto Junior College, my interest in business expanded into a passion second only to flying. I made the decision to continue studying business when I applied to Cal Poly and I’ve learned more and more every day since.
Who are your biggest entrepreneurial influences?
For reasons previously discussed, I think my two biggest influences in entrepreneurship have been my father and Ralph at Modesto Aviation. Even though the business ultimately dissolved, Ralph showed me the emotion and passion behind each entrepreneur. The failure of Modesto Aviation as a company taught, however, that an entrepreneur’s vision must also come with good planning, harder work, and unending determination.
Do you have any advice as an entrepreneur?
Another important lesson from my dad is a simple phrase he learned in the Marine Corps that I’ve repeated in my head hundreds of times. He calls it the six P’s, Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. You cannot accomplish any task effectively without prior planning, let alone running a business. It’s incredibly important as an entrepreneur that you put a lot of effort into researching what it is you’d like to achieve and exactly how you’re going to do it. You have to know exactly what your business goal is and how you’re going to achieve that goal. It all ties back to having an effective business plan and making sure you implement it appropriately while making the necessary tweaks and adjustments that are inherently needed in a dynamic business environment. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help and make sure to allocate work flow effectively. One thing I learned from Modesto Aviation is not to wear too many hats. What I mean by this is that you shouldn’t try to perform every single job that exists within your company, train others well and make sure you don’t put too much on your own plate. As the owner of a business, you have enough to worry about as it is. Try not to micromanage too much, but interject and provide guidance where it’s needed. It’s also very important that you communicate with your partners and employees effectively. Part of this includes being mindful of other people’s contributions and giving credit where it’s due. Positive reinforcement plays a huge role in motivating your team, a simple “thank you” or “good job” can go a long way. Making sure your employees feel recognition and appreciation for their contribution to the business can be far more beneficial than you’d imagine.
What do you hope to achieve with entrepreneurship?
If I do choose to start my own business someday, I want it to be in an area that I’m knowledgeable in and passionate about. My first choice would be something related to aviation in some way. With my experience from Modesto Aviation and the education I’ve received from Cal Poly, I’d feel very confident in taking on the challenge of establishing my own flight school. There’s a high demand of people that want to learn how to fly without a large enough supply of quality flight schools. With my experiences in aircraft management, maintenance, and scheduling, I feel that I’d be well equipped to take on this kind of endeavor. I may even be more interested in creating my own charter service for private clients. I worked closely with Sky Trek Aviation, a small charter flight service with a fleet of private aircraft for upper-class clients who seek a more luxurious alternative to airline travel. If I somehow end up receiving a lofty inheritance from a rich relative that I don’t know about then I’d love to put that money to use starting my own airline, but needless to say that’s quite unlikely to happen. Creating a charter flight service would be the next best thing, and it’s just a tad bit more feasible!
Thanks for interviewing with us today Adam! Best of luck to you in your future endeavors.
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