When Scott McCall was a kid growing up in California, his favorite pastime was flying a Lear 45 on Microsoft Flight Simulator. “My friends were playing Grand Theft Auto, and there I was in the simulator flying across the world,” he says. Scott’s parents recognized his interest in aviation and bought him two introductory flights. “Both of those put everything in motion for me wanting to start flying myself.”
Now 29, Scott recalls riding on a Delta Air Lines flight as a child and getting wings from the flight crew; his mother saved those wings and presented them to him after he received a job offer from Delta on Valentine’s Day this year. It took years of hard work and sacrifice to get that job, though. “It had its difficulties financially, but it was very rewarding,” Scott says. He took a handful of jobs after high school and worked his way through college to pay for flight lessons. He earned his private pilot certificate the same week he graduated from college in 2011 with a degree in computer engineering.
Later that same year, Scott enrolled in ATP’s 90-day career pilot program, and in early 2012 he began working as a flight instructor at ATP’s Phoenix location. He was selected for what was at that time a new cadet program with Skywest, which gave participants access to the company’s online training materials. He began studying while completing his 1,500 hours of flight time at ATP, and in 2014 he was hired by Skywest to start flying the CRJ 200. He upgraded to captain in 2016 and flew for them until he started his present assignment with Delta, based out of Detroit.
“I’ve always enjoyed the complexity of flying,” Scott says. He said being a pilot dovetails nicely with his background in software and technology because he is constantly challenged with understanding the mechanics behind the equipment he flies.
“The biggest advantage of the industry trainers is the full-motion simulation,” he says. “The bumps in the runway, the thump of the landing gear dropping, even stuck flight controls — everything can be felt in the sim. The visuals in the industry trainer also are more modern and advanced than Microsoft Flight Simulator was when I was a kid. The simulators allow us to train for almost every situation imaginable without ever putting anyone at risk in an actual aircraft.”
The best advice he would give to an aspiring airline pilot is to work hard and recognize that the choices any aspiring pilot makes early in life carry through. “The thing with this industry is that you can’t expect anyone to give you anything. It has to be self-driven,” he says. “If it’s something you want, you have to want to go out there and get the answers, and not give up until you understand what’s going on. College really helped me learn to self-study and put out a lot of effort without expecting anything to be given to me. It is not a quick process.”
Scott also emphasizes the close ties within the aviation community and the importance of maintaining a good reputation. But for a smart, motivated pilot like Scott, the future is wide open. “When I was at the regional level, I knew it was a stepping stone,” he says. “Now here at Delta, I’m not getting out and exploring the whole world yet, but this is definitely a branch out. It’s living up to my expectations and only has room for growth.”
Even though he’s always looking to pick up extra trips just so he can explore new places, Scott makes time to visit his parents back in California. “I owe my career to my parents,” he says. “My first overnight at Skywest was in Sacramento for roughly 20 hours. They were in the parking lot watching me land and then waited at the bottom of the escalators outside security for me to come down. My mom was jumping up and down — both of them had the biggest smiles on their faces. I could see they were proud of me, and I was proud to have them as parents.”