Pilots at 2023 PAPA Expo Find Common Ground and Inspiration

As you walk around the conference center connected to the historic Westgate Casino & Resort in Las Vegas, there’s a buzz in the air. It could be the sprawling, extravagant entertainment happening all around, but attendees at the 2023 Professional Asian Pilots Association (PAPA) Expo know what’s really going on – a gathering of shared passions and stories that connect them to the aviation industry.

Hundreds of pilots, all at different stages in their careers, all gather to meet with potential employers, network with potential colleagues, and learn more about on resources available to support and direct the aviation industry towards a better future.

“When I arrived here, I felt a little bit out of my element,” said Yuta Young, Envoy’s scholarship winner at the PAPA expo. “But I’ve since realized that I’m a product of what I see at this conference and what the future holds for me. I’m able to find possible mentors who look like me and be inspired by them. Along with the scholarship, it makes me feel like I belong in this industry.”

It’s a journey, not a destination

Envoy First Officer Brenden Kung, 32, at the 2023 PAPA Expo.
Envoy First Officer Brenden Kung, 32, at the 2023 PAPA Expo.

Another common theme for many pilots is that everyone experiences challenges at one point or another in their journey to becoming an airline pilot. And that’s exactly what it is, a journey.

When Envoy First Officer Brenden Kung first began flight training after his flight attendant career with American Airlines, he admittedly experienced challenges learning new skills as a pilot and had to work hard to develop and correct them.

“I realized what may feel like little victories were actually a big deal, and remembered to consistently inspire myself,” said Brenden, who is also a union committee member. “I learned I had to enjoy the journey and not focus too much on the next milestone ahead.”

Envoy Flight Attendant and AirOps Recruiter Nancy Ortiz at the 2023 PAPA Expo.
Envoy Flight Attendant and Air Operations Recruiter Nancy Ortiz at the 2023 PAPA Expo.

Envoy Flight Attendant Nancy Ortiz’s job as a special-assignment Air Operations Recruiter is to guide Envoy Cadets and incoming First Officers through their journey. A native of Seoul, South Korea, Nancy was excited to be at the PAPA Expo to connect with potential Envoy pilots to get them through the door.

“It’s my job to guide them through the process and give them the confidence boost they need to achieve their goals,” said Nancy. “While it’s a hard road, it’s all about navigating the best route for you and your career. They have us recruiters and other seasoned pilots to teach them the ins-and-outs of becoming an airline pilot.”

Stand in your corner

A little bit of guidance goes a long way when you’re trying to find your footing. At the PAPA expo, there’s of course specific career advice to follow like how to apply, what airlines are looking for and interview tips. However, other resources are available to address important issues such as professional development, finding a good work/life balance and more.

One of the PAPA Expo keynote speakers, Ernie Meeks, touched on just this. He explained how finding joy in other activities outside of piloting aircraft is necessary to decompress from the stresses of work, and how to handle the obstacles that throw off your work/life balance.

Envoy Scholarship winner Yuta Young, 23, at the 2023 PAPA Expo.
Envoy Scholarship winner Yuta Young, 23, at the 2023 PAPA Expo.

This advice resonated with Yuta who is an up-and-coming pilot.

“My limbs are constantly going in different directions chasing my interests and passions,” Yuta said. “I learned from the keynote speaker that being well-rounded will ultimately benefit my career. All the separate parts of my personality can make me a well-rounded pilot. Whether it’s creativity in music or teaching lessons through coaching youth hockey, I can use that on the flight deck.”

Pass it on and pay it forward

Current and former Envoy pilots posing with Envoy AirOps Recruiters at the 2023 PAPA Expo.
Current and former Envoy pilots posing with Envoy Air Operations Recruiters at the 2023 PAPA Expo.

This crucial knowledge and advice are something Yuta, Brenden and Nancy said they’re determined to pass along to the next generation of airline pilots. For Yuta it’s about getting out of his comfort zone, for Brenden it’s teaching about the Flight Attendant-to-Pilot life through social media, and for Nancy it’s encouraging the many skilled pilots awaiting a career at Envoy.

By taking what they’ve learned in their respective careers, leaning on the mentors and guides they have and applying that into their current roles, they’re geared up for inspiring the future.

“I like to help where I can with the tools and knowledge I have,” Brenden said. “I came into the industry at a great time and have amazing people guiding me. It will eventually be up to me to make sure we’re mentoring the best pilots possible and making the airline industry the best place to work for everyone.”

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