Pilot and Cadet Testimonials

Pilots and cadets come from every background and they all have their own stories. We asked a few of our pilots and cadets what they love about being a pilot, what inspired them to fly, and why they chose American Airlines. Select each pilot to see their story.

Jamie Jameson

Check Pilot, A320


Brystal Duppstadt

Envoy First Officer

Jamie Jameson - Check Pilot, A320

As a child, my great grandmother and I would go to the airport to eat lunch together where I would watch all the arrivals and departures. Once I sat in the flight deck as a teenager, that’s all it took. Today, I’ve been with American for 24 years. At American, Captain Cecil Ewell saw something in me no one else did. He believed in me and took a chance with me when no one else would. With hard work, learning and mentoring from various captains, I excelled to check pilot on the A320 fleet. I continue to pay it forward because it’s important that young kids, especially minority kids, see someone who looks like them in such a role.

Brystal Duppstadt - Envoy First Officer​

It’s been my dream to be a pilot since I was a little girl. In addition to being inspired by my mom (who is a flight attendant), I wanted to travel and be around airplanes. When I took my discovery flight and experienced flying in a little airplane the first time, there was no turning back! The Academy has given me countless experiences that I will cherish. Being a student, learning from other students… I have loved cheering each other on as we progress in our careers. Being a pilot does not feel like work. My “office” is the flight deck. I experience the best views, travel to new cities, and work with incredible crew members. And the work-life balance gives me freedom to travel, spend time with friends and family, or dive in with other hobbies. My dream is to ultimately fly for American!


Gustavia Cartwright​

Envoy First Officer, E-175​

Nic Brice​

Captain, A320​

Gustavia Cartwright - Envoy First Officer E-175​

I started at American as a flight attendant, but once I sat in the flight deck jump seat, I knew I wanted to be a pilot. It was better than any rollercoaster I have ever been on and with a much better view. It’s so rewarding to put on my uniform and walk through the terminal to my departure gate. Women and children approach me all the time to tell me how wonderful it is to see a female in the flight deck or, “I didn’t know I could be a pilot until now.” Also, you can’t beat the pilot lifestyle. You’re able to make your own schedule and see a different part of the continent each week. American was my choice because of their dedication to honor those that have served our country and their continued support. I couldn’t be more proud to work for a company that recently donated 1.5 million dollars to provide grants and scholarships to black pilots, which will help aspiring pilots that look like me on their path skyward.

Nic Brice​ - Captain, A320​

When I was 5, my dad took me on his job when he couldn’t find a babysitter. His job: arial photography. I needed a booster chair for the seat, and they were taking pictures 1,500 feet above the ground. Since then, I wanted to be a pilot. I love to travel and see new places, and I’ve gotten to do both. The best part? Pulling into the parking lot knowing I’m about to fly a multimillion-dollar jet, six miles above the earth, going over 500 mph. And getting paid to! It’s also been great seeing my fellow pilots (like my cadet Keith Taylor), get hired at American Airlines. The best thing is the people. I have such a great time learning about each other during our travels across the country. Really, the world is yours at American.


Elis Rosa Santaella​

Envoy First Officer​

David Pettet​

Captain, A320​

Elis Rosa Santaella - Envoy First Officer​

I was born and raised in Puerto Rico and at the time, American Airlines had a very large Caribbean base full of aircraft flying in and out of San Juan. Seeing those loud turboprops soar made me want to become part of that thrill. Being at the Academy, my favorite experience with American Airlines Group is meeting amazing people and going from students to instructors, to now first officers. Each day I wake up is a new adventure. Even if I’m flying to the same city I flew yesterday, the plane, crew, weather, and passengers are all different. Each tells a different story, wanting to go somewhere, and waiting for you to lead them to their destination. Being part of the “fAAmily” has allowed me to explore different cultures and go places I’ve never dreamed of. Whether it is through traveling on my time off or working alongside the best coworkers, American has given me the opportunity to advance my career and have the best time doing it!

David Pettet - Captain A320​

My love for airplanes and travel started when I was young, traveling the world as the son of a missionary. I’ve been with American 6 years and putting the uniform on to report for my trip never feels like work. In fact, my favorite thing about being a pilot is the camaraderie. It’s showing up in the flight deck and learning about the journeys of my fellow pilots. It’s an exciting thing, the hiring American is doing. Not only means for each pilot’s seniority and career progression, but the opportunity to be a part of leading the industry in diversity, equity, and inclusion. You’re never alone when flying. Take a moment to pause and think about what we get to do and get paid to do it—there’s no other job like it out there.

Kiersten Orrick​

First Officer, A320​


Mohammad Jahangir Abdal

Envoy First Officer E-175​​

Kiersten Orrick​​ - First Officer, A320​​

I learned to fly in the summer of 2003 right after high school, and it has been full steam ahead since. My mom was a skydiver, but I’ve always been more interested in flying airplanes than jumping out of them! When people ask what’s my favorite thing about being a pilot, it’s simple. The view! Life as a pilot means constantly evolving and learning, and every flight is different. The chance to fly beautiful, advanced airplanes is the icing on the cake. I appreciate that American is at the forefront of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and American’s culture fits my lifestyle. You can do more than just flying at American Airlines—you can get involved and really be a part of the continuous momentum of change and growth.

Mohammad Jahangir Abdal - Envoy First Officer E-175​

I found the Cadet Academy while soul searching for something that would be more fulfilling and fit the saying “love what you do; never work a day in your life”. I was inspired by my father who had a commercial pilot’s license, and while he never became a professional pilot, worked for (and continues to work for) American. I found the Academy just as it was being formed, and my favorite experience has been building the life-long friendships with folks inside and outside the flight deck. Why do I love my life as a pilot? Because I get to be myself when I show up every day to work. The diversity and inclusion I saw firsthand in the Flight Service group was unmatched, and I knew American was the place where I wanted to continue my professional pilot career.


Damion Washington​

Envoy First Officer, E-175​

Jim Glick​

Check Pilot, B787​

Damion Washington - Envoy First Officer E-175​

I wanted to become a pilot at an early age, after hearing stories about my grandfather being the 1st black private pilot in the state of Arkansas. One of my favorite accomplishments as a cadet was being selected to complete the ferry flight of brand-new Piper Archers and Piper Seminoles. It was so exciting to have the opportunity to truly fly across the country from Florida back to Arizona, implementing all the of training received in a real-life situation. Before I started at the academy, I had no idea how to become a pilot. The Cadet Academy provided the path, the mentorship, and the financial support I needed to reach my dream. I am honored to be a brand ambassador for American and the Cadet Academy, furthering diversity in the flight deck.

Jim Glick - Check Pilot B787​

I’ve been with American Airlines for 35 years, but I grew up as an airline brat and always wanted to be the person in the front of the airplane. I was fortunate to get a job washing and fueling airplanes at the local airport when I was 16 years old. I love being a pilot because I get to interact with pilots starting their aviation journey at the cadet program and the pilot recruitment team. I also get to teach our most senior pilots on the Boeing 787 as well as those closing in on retirement. There are so many opportunities at American beyond flying airplanes.