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Meet a Rotor Pro - CJ Schneider, III - MD Helicopters

Posted 26 days ago ago by Admin

RPMN: What is your current position?

I am currently a standardization pilot for the factory training department, as well as a production test pilot with MD Helicopters LLC in Mesa Arizona. We specialize in initial and recurrent advanced emergency procedure training in all MD airframes as well as maintenance test pilot courses. It’s the absolute dream job, as I get to work with pilots in such a multifaceted industry. There aren't a great number of MD Pilots in the world, but every single one of them brings something significant to the table and are absolute powerhouse in their career field and I'm lucky to get to fly and learn from a great number of them.

RPMN: Tell me about your first experience with helicopters.

My first experience with helicopters was while I was serving in the United States Marine Corps on a deployment in Iraq. Seeing guys in some of the worst possible situations in need of a helping hand, and these guardian angels with big rotors on their heads, popping out to support those front-line fighters and risking their well-being while being exposed to rocket and gunfire. I knew at that moment if I ever got the chance to get into some kind of flying ship and help support others in this world, I would never pass up the chance. Our military pilots in this county, (fixed- wing or rotors) are some of, if not the most top-notch pilots in this entire world and we are lucky to have them.

RPMN: How did you get your start in the helicopter industry?

The way I got started in the helicopter industry was by way of chance. I was lucky enough to receive benefits after separating from the military through the Post 9-11 GI Bill. They paid 100% of my airplane and helicopter flight school. I went to a flight school at Prescott, Arizona; that was a high altitude training center where I was lucky enough to come across an absolute trailblazer in this industry, John Stonecipher, who was the owner of the school that took a chance on me as a pilot and led me to the opportunities that got me to where I am today. I would highly recommend Guidance Aviation's flight school for anyone trying to get into the helicopter industry.

RPMN: When and how did you choose the helicopter industry? Or did it choose you?

I feel like the helicopter industry chose me, I didn't choose it. Coming directly from the Marine Corps into flight school, I was still in need of the brotherhood and thrill. I went to airplane flight school at the same time as I was working through all my helicopter certificates and when I got done with both, it was time to decide my path. Without too much detail, if you are someone who has ever had the pleasure of taking flight in a helicopter, the overwhelming pull to the rotor world was a force that I couldn't escape. It became a part of me and I will be forever thankful for that time of my life.

RPMN: If you were not in the helicopter industry, what else would you see yourself doing?

This is a good question. I have thought about it many times. I can honestly say, I would probably be living in some no-name town, driving an old truck that constantly needed work and working some dead-end job spending every extra dollar I had on flight hours to get to exactly where I am today. After the experience I had in the military, there was no stopping me. I was willing to do anything and everything possible to live the dream I am living today. I didn't come from a place where opportunities were in abundance. So, it was up to me and only me to make my dreams come true. I am beyond grateful I never had to find out the hard way what I would be doing if I wasn't in this amazing industry.

RPMN: What do you enjoy doing on your days off?

Days off? Can you expand on what you mean by this question?


RPMN: Well, you clearly answered that question; let’s move on. What is your greatest career accomplishment to date?

My greatest career accomplishment so far is getting to work with MD Helicopters. The history of this product is undeniable. Getting to put on a flight suit with the MD Logo on my chest is me simply getting to stand on the shoulders of giants in this industry who came before me. We may not be the largest manufacturer in the industry, but our history from back in Vietnam is second to none. The sacrifices that were made in this helicopter to support human lives on the ground whether in the military or our police forces is unmatched. The amount of infrastructure our utility pilots have created in every weather condition on this planet to support families in towns and cities across this world is absolutely remarkable. The maintenance personnel that have supported our endeavors as pilots and made it possible for us to do what we do are the key to the whole industry.  Long story short, I wouldn't want to work with another group of pilots. As mentioned, coming from the Marine Corps, I was in need of a new type of brotherhood and the MD brotherhood is as strong as they possibly can come.

RPMN: Have you ever had an “Oh, crap” moment in helicopters? Can you summarize what happened?

Have I ever had an “Oh, crap” moment?  Let’s just say that I have simply just had quite a few learning experiences in my time as a pilot and others have gotten a good laugh and good stories to tell at the expense of my learning experiences.

RPMN: If you could give only one piece of advice to new pilots, mechanics, or support personnel, what would it be?

My biggest piece of advice I would give to new pilots coming up in this industry is a piece of advice I got from a great mentor just recently. Never ever stop being curious. Ask questions! Know the industry you are going into, inside and out. One thing about people in this aviation world is everyone loves to talk and share. Every time you have the ability to learn, do it. You will only develop into the best leader and mentor for other new aviators one day and we all owe that to the industry we call “home.”

RPMN: In your view, what is the greatest challenge for the helicopter industry at this moment in time?

I think labor shortages right now between flying and non-flying air crew in our industry is massive. I think it has brought a huge halt to a lot of key parts to the helicopter and aviation world in general. Pilot shortage, mechanic shortage, skilled labor workers at manufacturers. I think this was predicted for years and it's been something whispered for about 10 years now. I just think we are in the eye of it currently. Everyone from EMS, airlines and manufacturers have all taken a major hit. The bonuses have never been higher, the pay has increased for all jobs. Across the board, I am not sure what the fix is. I just know as a pilot working for a manufacturer, we get a bird's eye view of the ebbs and flow of the aviation industry and it doesn't look too good right now in any field.


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