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CFI Close-Ups: Flight Instructor Q&A with Alex Santiago

We asked our flight instructor Alex Santiago, CFI, about his experience and why he loves flying. Read more below!

Q: How did you get into flying?
A: I have always loved flying. In the past I would spend my free time on flight simulators on my PC. I love to travel. As a kid growing up, every year my parents booked a flight for us to go back to Puerto Rico to spend Christmas with family. I remember my dad always wanting me to get a picture with the Captain on the flight deck. Back then security wasn’t as tight as it is today. I remember being in awe of all the buttons and gauges on the flight deck. I knew someday I wanted to fly an airplane.

Q: When did you know you wanted to be a pilot?
A: In 2014, after working a desk job for 17 years and some significant life changes, I made the decision to pursue a second career in aviation after talking with the staff at Sterling. There was a new partnership with Liberty University to earn my degree and still continue to work and support my family. I met my wife in 2015 and with her full committed support to pursue my dream, I started my journey.

Q: What do you think is important when choosing a flight school?
A: I would look for friendly staff. Students want to fit in and feel they are a part of a community of like-minded people and ask about the training history and track record of student performance.  A Part 141 certification for training ensures the school must perform at a high standard

Q: What do you like most about being an instructor?
A: I love to fly. I love to see the faces of people when they are first given the controls of the aircraft and realize they are the ones that are in control.

Q: What is your most memorable flying experience?
A: My most memorable would be the two times I took my dad up with me flying. The first time was right after I earned my private pilot certificate. We took a short flight to Palatka and back to Craig. The second time he came along for the ride during my multi-engine training. It was an overcast day, my instructor and I filed a flight plan to get above the clouds to work on a lesson for my multi-engine check ride. He was enamored with the way we broke out on top of the clouds to a beautiful sunshine day above the clouds, worked on engine out procedures and went back to the airport on the ILS back into Craig and landing. He still talks about it to this day. I know he’s proud of me.

Q: What advice would you give students?
A: I would advise students to make the time to do the homework before showing up to the flight school. During my 4 years of training, I was working a full time and a part time job, earning my degree from Liberty with online courses, taking tests, writing papers and doing my flight lessons on the weekends. If I can earn my bachelors and successfully become a Flight Instructor with that kind of workload, then anyone can do it. But you have to be committed. It’s the only way it will work.

Q: What advice would you give individuals interested in instructing?
A: Being an instructor will make you a better pilot. Always be open minded to learning something new every day.

Q: What’s next for you?
A: My plan from day one was to go to the airlines. That’s the next step.

Q: If you could fly anywhere, where would it be?
A: That’s a hard question to answer. There is so much to see but I would love to fly to Italy with my wife and spend a few weeks traveling around Italy and Europe.

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