Career Magazine

Share Your Story: Tommy Jernejcic (Part 1), Fedex Feeder Pilot

By Swayne Martin @MartinsAviation
Welcome to the 19th "Share Your Story" post. Pilots from around the world write in featuring their flight experiences, promoting their blogs, websites, social media, novels, etc. More details + how to participate can be found via the following: Click Here and Get Involved
Today, the blog brings you the first part of a really great post from Tommy Jernejcic. Tommy is a flight instructor, ex-Fedex Feeder C208 Caravan Pilot, and current Surf Air Pilatus PC12 Pilot. This first part will detail Tommy's experiences flying as a Fedex Feeder Pilot. Next week will feature his experience flying with Surf Air. Thanks Tommy for writing in!
Share Your Story: Tommy Jernejcic (Part 1), Fedex Feeder Pilot
How apropos that Swayne would graciously send me a request to write a blog post about my aviation story during the same week that the next chapter was about to begin.  As I sit in the very same Starbucks where I’ve spent countless hours studying Jepp textbooks and pouring over approach plates, I can’t help but reminisce about how I got to where I finally am today- a young professional aviator, already with enough stories to fill a book, yet still with more adventures to be had!Share Your Story: Tommy Jernejcic (Part 1), Fedex Feeder Pilot
…But I guess THAT’S the key right there.  Even though the vast majority of pilots are motivated and driven Type-A personalities who thrive on routine and seem to have a penchant toward at least moderate OCD, it’s the unimaginable and unknown that beckons us skyward.  Charles Lindbergh said it best: “Real freedom lies in wildness, not in civilization.”Share Your Story: Tommy Jernejcic (Part 1), Fedex Feeder PilotAn Ontario Sunrise

While I can only speak for myself, I would bet that whether or not we have individually come to this same conclusion, it is at the deepest level of who we are as aviators.  It’s why we simply smile when people, be it family or strangers, give us a puzzled look and ask us why flying means so much to us.  After all, it’s just another form of transportation, isn’t it?...Share Your Story: Tommy Jernejcic (Part 1), Fedex Feeder PilotThe C208 at SBPBut I digress!  So just how did this average guy from suburban Southern California end up landing (honestly, no pun intended) his dream job, and in his dream airplane no less?!  Well like most flights, it started with a thought, then a plan, and finally takeoff.  There were, however, a few in-flight diversions on the way that I’ll skip over for brevity.  Unlike many others, I didn’t grow up around airplanes or have any family or friends who were pilots.  My fascination with aviation began when I was a kid watching Tailspin, a Disney cartoon that was loosely based on the characters from “The Jungle Book” combined with “The Rocketeer.”  Fast planes, air pirates, gangsters, and the Golden Age of Aviation- what more could you ask for?!Share Your Story: Tommy Jernejcic (Part 1), Fedex Feeder Pilot
It wouldn’t be until many years later, however, that I would have my first real flying experiences, as a cadet at the US Air Force Academy while taking an autumn soaring course.  After about twelve instruction flights, I was set loose on my first solo flight over the foothills of the Rocky Mountains on what had to be one of the most beautiful, crisp mornings ever!  Immediately after liftoff, in-tow of a Piper Super Cub, I knew right then that I didn’t just want to be a pilot- I HAD to be a pilot!  “Murphy” and his law had other plans for my Air Force career though, resulting in a “reroute” that at first seemed devastating but, as I look back now, worked out for the best.  (Cue those dreaded words from ATC: “I have an amendment to your clearance. Advise ready to copy.”Finally in March of 2007 I emerged from the ATP, Inc. flight training program as a fully-fledged CFI/CFII/MEI and began instructing at the French Valley Airport (F70) in Southern California.  I was privileged to teach there full-time for four years, alongside the excellent staff at Executive Flight Institute.  Together we enjoyed the benefits of a then-booming economy, as well as weathered the following economic downturn.  In addition to my flying duties, I was also our flight school’s go-to-guy whenever local middle and high schools called and asked for a representative for their career day events.  Being able to educate and motivate the next generation of aviators has always been one of the chief highlights of my career, and I have always seen it as a practical, and indeed the very least, way in which I can give back to that which has meant so much to me.  During my tenure as a full-time CFI I was able to fine tune my own skills and knowledge, and I had opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise had, including flying a *slightly* extended cross-country trip from Southern California to Key West and back in a Piper Seneca, with my student and good friend.  That unforgettable flight is a story all of its own!Share Your Story: Tommy Jernejcic (Part 1), Fedex Feeder PilotCFI ModeAs much as I enjoyed flight instructing (and still do), I was getting anxious to get back in the left seat and advance my career.  So when I had the chance to fly the Cessna Caravan for West Air, California’s FedEx Feeder, I jumped on the opportunity.  Life as a single-pilot freight dog meant long days and challenging flying, but getting to fly one of my favorite airplanes throughout a state as diverse as California was incredibly rewarding.  

While I started out as a reserve pilot, filling in open routes around the state, I was able to bid my own route after about six months.  Share Your Story: Tommy Jernejcic (Part 1), Fedex Feeder PilotDelivering a Christmas Tree
For the next year and a half I flew the route between Ontario (ONT) and Inyokern (IYK).  It was the perfect route for me as I was home every night, and the type of flying required was anything but routine.  Inyokern is located in the Mojave Desert north of Edwards AFB, but just south of the Sierra Nevada mountains, at the opening of what is known as the Owen’s Valley.  It’s an area notorious for severe turbulence, windshear, high density altitude, mountain waves, and other “fun.”  Share Your Story: Tommy Jernejcic (Part 1), Fedex Feeder PilotTommy Landing at IYK

In addition, for our operations it was a VFR only airport due the fact that it lies in a very busy MOA.  This meant that I would depart IFR out of ONT and then have to cancel IFR by Palmdale, and then continue VFR for the remaining 70 miles.  If unable to cancel, I would fly an instrument approach into nearby WJF and cancel once under the weather.  

Share Your Story: Tommy Jernejcic (Part 1), Fedex Feeder Pilot
Flying Over IYKIf the flying wasn’t enough to keep things interesting, the freight I often carried was the cream filling of the Twinkie.  Inyokern is just seven miles east of China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station, the US Navy’s largest land base and the location where they develop and test their latest technology.  Delivering everything from aircraft parts to missile engines is what gave me the idea to start my “Box of the Day” photo series on Instagram and Twitter. Here are two interesting boxes:
Share Your Story: Tommy Jernejcic (Part 1), Fedex Feeder Pilot
Share Your Story: Tommy Jernejcic (Part 1), Fedex Feeder Pilot

It was also during this time that Swayne first contacted me about contributing an article about my aviation experiences.  Little did either of us know that things were just about to change…
Share Your Story: Tommy Jernejcic (Part 1), Fedex Feeder Pilot

---------------------Check back in everyone for next week's Part 2 of Tommy's "Share Your Story" Post. Surf Air is an amazing, new company... you'll definitely want to check it out. 

Tommy, it was really interesting to read about your flying throughout the West with Fedex Feeder. The scenery is amazing. That really is a dream job! 

Thanks again for writing in and participating in the Share Your Story section of the blog, 

Swayne Martin Martins Aviation / From Private to Professional PilotTwitter: @MartinsAviationYoutube: MartinsAviation1 

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