Rigorous testing for Delta Air Lines pilots


John Masters sitting at Cheesecake Factory. Photo by Tyler Larson
John Masters sitting at Cheesecake Factory. Photo by Tyler Larson

“Always looking up in the sky and seeing airplanes made me want to become a pilot at an early age,” says Masters.

Masters grew up in San Francisco, California, with his single mother who worked for American Air Lines as a flight attendant. He said he first noticed how prestigious it was to be a pilot when he saw one of the pilot’s checks when he was with his mother.

San Jose State is where he attended college and learned to fly planes at San Carlos Airport.  He first started his career as a pilot in the Marines, flying A4’s and A6’s. He also flew for American Airlines for six months before moving to Delta.


“The best part of flying for Delta is that you have the best seat in the house every flight,” says Masters. “You look out seeing things that are always different.”

Masters made it clear that one good thing about working for Delta is the options you get to choose from while flying. The more seniority you have, the better options and flights you get to have. He is currently in the 39 percentile of seniority for the Airbus 330. The way it works is this, pilots who fly specific planes put in bids for trips that model is making; the pilot with the most seniority with that plane gets to pick what trip he or she wants to fly.


Masters said there are not many cons of flying Delta but there is one. The one con he said flying for Delta is the rigorous testing. Testing is through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Delta.

There are also cons in general of flying airplanes. He said waking up is not his favorite thing to do, and the time differences he has to adapt to are taxing on his body.

“Drink lots of water to counteract jetlag,” says Masters. “No caffeine or alcohol.”

Joy of flying

The best time he had flying was in the military for the Marines. He worked his way up to captain. He said that the freedom of having no rules besides taking care of your buddy was what made it great.

According to him, the best part of flying was the journey of becoming a pilot.

“My ultimate goal was to become an airline pilot; now that I am one, I am living my dream and couldn’t be happier,” says Masters.

He said the trips to beautiful countries are also what make his job a joy. His top five places to visit in order are: Honolulu, Shanghai, Rome or anywhere in Italy, London and Paris.

“If you have any concerns with flying, ask a pilot and request a window seat, so you can see the wing,” says Masters. “If you can see the wing you can see what is going on.”

According to Delta Air Lines pilot Bob Taylor, one must be tested to become a pilot for Delta and more tests once you become a pilot. Training and work are also procedures for staying as a pilot for airlines.

The first step in becoming a pilot for Delta is the minimum requirement testing, which includes an interview, physical testing, psychological testing and computerized testing. The FAA regulates this portion of the testing.

“Once you become a pilot for Delta, it’s not a cakewalk. You have to know the plane you’re flying like the back of your hand,” says Taylor.

Taylor said every nine months each pilot for Delta has to take a test for recurrence-advanced qualification. As a pilot you also have to go through a CD that takes three to four days to complete depending on the plane you are flying.

According to Taylor, there is a two-year locked in entitlement for each plane, which means if you sign up to fly a certain plane model you have to fly it for at least two years. You have to know all about the emergency procedures and the control board of each plane you fly.

“Training for each plane is 25 days and 19 days of actual training,” says Taylor.

Taylor has flown planes for 30 years and 17 of them with Delta. He flies the Airbus 320, which holds 126 passengers. He started flying planes in the Air Force.



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