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A Discussion with Duncan John MacDonald On the Unique Experiences that Came with a Life in Aviation



Duncan John MacDonald

After attending the College of Aviation and Aeronautical Sciences at LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas, Duncan John MacDonald received a B.S. in Aviation Studies. Following graduation, he continued his studies at VT AAA Flight School in New Braunfels, where he worked diligently to obtain all the requirements to pursue a career in aviation. With a lifelong dream of becoming a commercial pilot, the thought of traveling the globe served as a continuous source of motivation throughout the completion of his studies. Having worked ten years now as a commercial pilot, Duncan claims to have one of the most rewarding careers and is always looking to pursue new opportunities in his field.

What first inspired you to pursue a career in aviation?

I have always been fascinated by the idea of traveling for a living and viewing the world from an alternate perspective. Since becoming a commercial pilot, I have had the opportunity to transcend national borders and immerse myself in various countries and cultures across the globe. My job offers a sense of freedom and a wide range of unique benefits. I recommend aviation for anyone looking for a continuous sense of adventure.


What type of mental attitude is needed to become a pilot?

My profession requires an extensive amount of commitment and self-discipline, as there is minimal room for error while on the job. Additionally, pilots must maintain a high degree of situational awareness, which includes but is not limited to flight conditions, weather systems, and various other environmental hazards that may compromise the journey. Ultimately, it is always crucial to possess a sophisticated understanding of one’s surroundings, to ensure the safety of everyone on board. 


What qualifications did you have to obtain to become a commercial pilot?

Most programs require a bachelor’s degree, and applicants must be at least twenty-three years of age to begin training. To obtain certification, individuals must pass the Federal Administration (FAA) practical test and log 250 hours of flight time. To become a certified commercial pilot, they will need to also obtain an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certification and have a minimum of 1,500 hours logged.

When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted yourself?

It is easy to doubt yourself then you are responsible for the lives of so many individuals. However, one of the most vital qualities one needs to have to become a commercial pilot is confidence. It is imperative to never doubt your abilities, especially in emergency situations.


What has been your most satisfying moment in your career?

My most satisfying moment in my career would have to have been my first solo flight. All of my extensive training had prepared me for that instance, and it is a moment I will never forget. I also take great pride in being able to assist passengers and fly them safely to their destination.


What do you think it is that makes you successful?

I think my hard work and dedication have gotten me this far. Many individuals are intimidated by the amount of training that is required to become a commercial pilot, but in my opinion, the opportunities and experiences are far worth the effort. I am appreciative of every opportunity and learning experience that comes my way.


What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?

A career in aviation usually means spending an extended amount of time away from friends and family. It is always hard having to leave behind the ones you care about, but it is one sacrifice that I have come to terms with and can effectively manage.


What does the future hold for you?

Despite having traveled the globe, there are still many locations that I would like to explore. In some instances, the layover on flights can be very short, and after filing the necessary paperwork or catching up on sleep, I do not have time to experience the destination.

What is it that you do for fun when you are not flying?

I really enjoy sports, so when I am not flying, I like to take the opportunity to hit a few rounds of golf. I find being outdoors very therapeutic, and I think it is important to exercise regularly and maintain good health. However, when I am not feeling as ambitious, I also like to watch a game of football with some friends.


What advice would you give to your younger self?

I would tell my younger self that everything will eventually play out as it should. I think many of us spend a good portion of our youth worrying about things that are completely out of our control. I know when I was in flight school, I spent countless hours doubting myself; however, in the end, I became certified and am now a successful commercial pilot.


What books would you recommend for individuals in your field?

I would highly recommend Weather Flying by Robert N. Buck for any individual currently in my industry. Buck draws from years of experience as a pilot to provide a comprehensive overview of various flying techniques while explaining how to navigate extreme weather conditions. This book taught me a lot about flying and enhanced my skill set.

For those who are interested in the history of aviation, I suggest The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. The books provide a historical outlook on the brothers that changed the course of aviation history.

Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?

I am willing to be a mentor to anyone interested in pursuing a career in aviation. Based on current projections, Boeing estimates a need for just under 800,000 new pilots by 2037 to meet the growing demand.

Being a commercial pilot is a highly rewarding career choice; however, I would also like to remind individuals that it also is not all glamorous and is a significant time commitment. Those who are dedicated and value hard work will find themselves on the path to success.

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