Julie Bowers ’94: Pilot

How She Got That Job

by Christina Barber-Just

Julie Bowers ’94 is a first officer at Delta Air Lines.Name
Julie Bowers ’94

Smith major

Current job
First officer, Delta Air Lines. Bowers holds the Federal Aviation Administration’s highest pilot certificate, Airline Transport Pilot.

What she does
With a captain, Bowers flies an MD-88—a 142-seat McDonnell Douglas twin-engine jet airliner—on two- to three-hour flights departing from and returning to Atlanta. She pilots as many as five flights a day, working three or four days at a time (including lots of weekends and holidays), then enjoys several days off at home in Powder Springs, Georgia.

Career path
After Smith, Bowers attended Florida’s FlightSafety Academy, where she became a certified flight instructor, or CFI, following more than a year and a half of training. FlightSafety then hired her as a flight instructor, a job she held for more than two years before making the leap to Atlantic Southeast Airlines, a Delta Connection carrier based in Atlanta. She flew a 30-seat turboprop for ASA, initially as a first officer, then as a captain. In March 2001, after three years with ASA, she got her current job with Delta. It had been her goal to be hired by a major airline by age 30, and she was 29 at the time.

Disaster struck just six months into Bowers’s dream job. As a new employee, she was among the first pilots to be furloughed by Delta—and among the last to be recalled. While on unpaid leave, she trained new Transportation Security Administration screeners and flew once again for ASA. Finally, in November 2006, after five years, Bowers was recalled. “The feeling was wonderful,” she says. “Being furloughed really made me appreciate my job.”

Setting her sights
Bowers estimates it will be at least five more years before Delta promotes her to the rank of captain. She would like to fly a bigger aircraft, such as the Boeing 767, on an international route before assuming the captain’s seat on the MD-88.

Want her job?
The earlier you can start flying, Bowers says, the better. Take lessons in high school or college and get your Private Pilot License, or PPL. Then, if you want to be a professional pilot, decide whether you’re going to get your training independently—by paying your way through flight school—or in the military. Be sure to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each. “Don’t let anyone discourage you by saying it’s a bad time to be a pilot or the airline industry isn’t doing well,” Bowers says. “If it’s your passion, then you can make it work.”

Summer ’09 SAQ