First Officer Jonathan Coker is on his way to adding an extra stripe to his uniform. He is currently in training to become an ExpressJet captain on the CRJ200 where he will fly for American Airlines out of Dallas, but he started as an ExpressJet intern while at Auburn University. A few months after graduation, he started new hire class two days after Christmas in 2006.
“Working as an intern paved the way for my career at ExpressJet, and it was a great opportunity to see what it’s really like to be a pilot full time,” said Jonathan. “I saw pilots throughout their work day; I saw what they did. I learned how pilots bid for their schedules and even had the privilege to observe several flights in the flight deck jumpseat.”
In January 2006, Jonathan started his internship at what was then Atlantic Southeast Airlines. He learned about the internship opportunity his senior year at Auburn when an airline representative, a precursor to ExpressJet’s EPIC Ambassador program, advised his class about the opportunity, which had a 90 percent success rate of starting pilot careers. In the internship, he worked in Crew Pay Auditing and then in the Chief Pilot’s Office.
“In an internship, they’re looking for maturity and work ethic on a daily basis for five months,” said Jonathan. “Every day is an interview, every single day.”
Now, Jonathan is going through a different type of interview, one that will upgrade him to a captain in Dallas, Texas.
Upgrading from first officer to captain is a six-week process with both in-classroom and hands-on training. Jonathan is thankful for the extra systems training as he will have to relearn the CRJ200.
“I flew the CRJ200 for two years before I transitioned to the CRJ700,” said Jonathan. “But I flew on the CRJ700 for so long and the systems are so different, it’s going to take some time.”
Jonathan’s upgrade training begins with two weeks of ground school, which focuses on aircraft systems and Captain Leadership. He must then pass an oral exam before he can spend the next two weeks completing eight, four-hour simulation sessions. Jonathan’s training concludes with two weeks of flying 25 hours as the pilot-in-command (PIC) on revenue flights with an instructor occupying the right seat.
It may seem like a strenuous process, but Jonathan understands the serious implications of his impending promotion.
“You move four feet to the left and suddenly you’re the final authority for anything that happens on your flight.”
Although Jonathan is eager to put on his captain’s hat, he doesn’t want to forget where he came from. Jonathan plans to be a mentor to the first officers who fly with him, but also to aviation students emerging in the field. Soon-to-be Captain Coker serves as an EPIC Ambassador at Florida Aviation Academy.
“I was mentored into this position,” said Jonathan. “I want to pay it forward and become an inspiration to someone else.”
Jonathan attributes much of his success to a piece of advice he received as he was starting his education:
“Don’t focus on where you’re going to be next year. Focus on where you’re going to be in ten years. You may have to sacrifice a few things now to get where you want to be in the future, but it will be worth it. Focus on your studies, and always make smart, safe decisions.”