Sherry Smith: Hooked by the Traveling Life

The California native never imagined she’d grow up to be an airline pilot.

sherry smith pilot
When Sherry Smith graduated from college with a business management degree, she knew that she wanted to travel, and found a job as a flight attendant. But when a captain for her airline took her for a ride in his plane, she realized she wanted her career to move forward, literally, to the front of the jet.Sherry Smith

California native Sherry Smith never imagined she’d grow up to be an airline pilot. Nobody in her family is in the aviation industry, and flying wasn’t something she ever seriously considered. But when she graduated from college with a business management degree, Sherry knew that she wanted to travel, and soon found a job as a flight attendant with Virgin America.

“One of the captains took me on a fun flight around the San Francisco Bay Area, and that’s when I had that moment when I realized I wanted to fly,” Sherry said. “The lifestyle is what got me interested in becoming a pilot. I knew once I started taking lessons that it was something I wanted to pursue.”

Sherry earned her private pilot certificate at a local airport near her home base while she was still working as a flight attendant. In fall 2012, she left Virgin to train full-time toward her airline career at ATP’s Trenton, New Jersey, location. In about a year she had earned all of her ratings and immediately began working as a flight instructor at ATP’s Daytona Beach, Florida, location.

“I chose this kind of accelerated program because I already had a college degree,” Sherry said. “It seemed like the best option because I wanted to get it done as fast as possible. I liked having a structure and being able to fly all the time. I really enjoyed instructing there. As hard as it seemed at times, I do miss it.”

sherry smith pilot
Sherry earned all of her advanced certificates and ratings with ATP, and built flight time as an instructor at its Daytona Beach, Florida, location.Sherry Smith

Sherry’s enthusiasm and hard work paid off in June 2014, when she was hired by regional carrier Republic Airline. Just less than three years later, she earned a spot flying for a major U.S. airline, where she now flies the Boeing 757 and 767. Her husband is also an airline pilot, and has been a tremendous support to her in her career choice, she said.

“He encouraged me to just go for it,” she said. “My only regret is that I would have started my training sooner. It’s such a good feeling to have my dream job. I can’t believe that I’m here now. It just happened so fast.”

What advice would she give to an aspiring airline pilot today? “Go take an intro flight and see if this is something that you want to pursue,” she said. “It’s a big investment and a big jump. Taking the first step is sometimes the scariest.”