Jessika venne became a pilot after initially training as a flight attendant. In her new role, she now flies a PC-12 and PC-24 on business flights for her company throughout North America. Pilatus Aircraft Ltd
Jessika, have you always wanted to be a pilot?
I remember telling my parents that I wanted to become a pilot when I was 17, right out of high school. At the time, being from a small rural town, I didn’t know how or where to start. So my mum approached me one morning with an ad in the newspaper for a flight attendant. “How about starting with this”, she said, “and see if you like it”. So, I went for the interview, got the job, and came back home after my 2nd flight. At that point, I told my parents: “I love it, but I want to be in the cockpit – and I will be one day!”
Where did you do your flight training?
I earned my private license when I was 19 years old, in St-Hubert, Quebec. I also did a week of aerobatics training in the Czech Republic the following year. After that I took a break from my formal training to focus on my flight attendant career, while saving up to finish my commercial pilot’s license. I always kept flying when I could, and never lost sight of my goal. I finally finished my commercial, Multi-IFR in 2018, in Calgary, Alberta. The mountain flying out west was definitely one of the highlights of my training.
How did you find your way into your current job?
When I first began training for my private pilot’s licence, I wanted to become an aerobatics pilot. The school I was training at had a Super Decathlon for aerobatics training, so I signed up for a few classes. Fast forward eight years later, I ran into my old aerobatics instructor and told him I was finishing my commercial pilot license. Whether fate or coincidence, today he happens to be the aviation director for a corporate company. He showed me their fleet, explained the operation and gave me my first chance: an interview and a flight test. A month later, he offered me job on their PC-12. I am forever grateful for the opportunity and the faith he had in me.
Today you fly a PC-24 and a PC-12. Could you tell us about your training experience in the PC-12 and the PC-24?
I did my training at FlightSafety International in Denver. It was a great training programme. And while training in Colorado, I also got to visit the new Pilatus Completion Centre in Broomfield. It was a “Pilatus Paradise” for this airplane geek. Witnessing the quality and presentation of their product at first hand only added to my Pilatus experience and admiration.
What do you like best about the PC-12?
For being my first airplane out of flight school, I have to say it is an amazing, pilot-friendly cockpit. The synthetic vision and the glass cockpit really helped me through all the IFR situations we encountered. It is a very cohesive, user-friendly design. I am also continually impressed with the capabilities and reliability of the PC-12, especially through all our different Canadian weather challenges. Bring on the Canadian winters!
And what do you like about the PC-24?
Where do I begin? To be able to take-off (and land) on a small remote strip in Northern Quebec, and then fly non-stop to Miami, Florida, is pretty amazing. The design is simply spectacular. I would say it is one of the sexiest aircraft I’ve ever seen. Add to that its performances and capabilities, and it really makes a total package, which is why it is my favourite airplane.
Is it difficult to transition between the PC-12 and the PC-24?
I was a little intimidated to fly my first jet, but the transition was seamless. The fact that they share an almost identical cockpit allowed me to focus on learning to adjust to the jet characteristics while being able to rely on the cockpit knowledge I already had from the PC-12. What seemed like a big mountain of learning, actually felt like a fun hike, thanks to all the shared similarities, and the amazing pilot-friendly system designs of both aircraft. I could not have wished for a better and easier transition to a jet.
What makes your job special?
Our team of nine pilots feels like a family. This job also allows me to incorporate what I learned from my flight attendant experience, caring about our guests onboard, and making sure they are enjoying their flight and have everything they need. You get to know your passengers and create connections, which makes the work environment even more fun and comfortable. And as an added bonus, this job also allowed me to fly the first Canadian PC-24!
You are very active on social media – tell us how you use it in your job and to stay connected in the aviation world.
I love my job so much, and being able to share it with my family, friends and fellow aviators makes me very proud. It also allows me to stay in touch with other female pilots and share experiences. The 99’s and FAST are great communities for any female in aviation, and we stay connected through social media.
Have you had any interesting, unique, or particularly memorable flights in Pilatus aircraft?
With the PC-12, we have the ability to land at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. It is a fun airport, located right on the water, in the downtown core of Toronto. The approach is beautiful and at times challenging, due to the configuration of the airport and the proximity to both the water and the city’s skyscrapers. It has unique arrival and departure procedures, similar to London’s City Centre, due to noise restrictions. We’re lucky enough to fly there regularly, in the PC-12 only, as the airport does not allow any jets to land there.
What would you like to be doing ten years from now?
This job is an absolute dream for me, so ten years from now I would love to still be working for AIM Aviation, helping them manage their fleet and training new pilots on our Pilatus aircraft.
Do you do any flying outside of work for fun?
I used to fly aerobatics for fun, and took a break when I focused on my commercial pilot license. I am hoping to start again next year. If I could get my hands on a PC-9 M, it would be even better!
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I’m a very social person, and I love food. So, my free time usually consists of meeting up with friends, travelling and discovering new foods and restaurants.
Do you have any interesting stories from your life as pilot which you’d like to share?
I was still employed as a flight attendant when I began flying for AIM, and was juggling both schedules. One day I got off work as a flight attendant in Montreal, put on my pilot uniform, and went to work in my piloting job. As I was taxiing for departure in the PC-12, we pulled up next to the Westjet 737 that I had flown in on. We were waiting holding short of the runway, and over the radio I said “hello” to my Westjet pilots. They waved at me from the cockpit and couldn’t believe their flight attendant from two hours ago was now holding short next to them, flying a PC-12!
Jessika, thank you very much for your time! Many more enjoyable flights in our Pilatus aircraft!