From Detective Sergeant to Pilot

by Karl Dines on Apr 08 2019
Hello, my name is Karl Dines and I am a Line Check Instructor at L3 Airline Academy in Sanford, Florida. I’d like to share with you my journey into the best career I could possibly think of.

I first got the flying ‘bug’ at three years old when I was being lowered into a Hawker Siddeley Harrier Jet by my father whilst wondering “how on earth does this plane fly straight up like a helicopter?!”; it was an absolute marvel! When I was younger, I would regularly attend air shows and be on a first name basis with the “lost child” services, because of wandering too close to the displays, and losing my parents! Whilst growing up I loved going on discovery flights at my local airfield and I ended up joining the air training corps. I was even fortunate enough to experience a flight in a British Airways B747 Simulator.

Although I am the first aviator in my family, aviation has been woven into our family’s history. From my grandfather helping a downed spitfire pilot during World War II, to my father’s reserve time spent in the parachute regiment, it was only a matter of time for me. I went through my school years dreaming of becoming an airline pilot; however, unfortunately I was unable to achieve the grades required in order to be sponsored for an airline-training program.

With my dream fading away, I focused my attention on building a career in the police and at the tender age of 19, I joined the London Metropolitan Police Service. Starting as a ‘bobby on the beat’ I learned the fundamental skills through uniformed community patrols; I also enjoyed working high profile events protecting the queen and other royals. I was promptly recruited as a detective, where I worked various undercover roles such as drug busts and foiling organized criminal networks, through targeted surveillance and disruption techniques. I progressed through various units headquartered by New Scotland Yard and enjoyed a number of tough yet rewarding years in the homicide department. I ended my career after 13 years as a Detective Sergeant in charge of a team dealing with serious and acquisitive crime.

Throughout my years as an officer I would often revisit my dream of becoming a pilot, but would tell myself that it wasn’t a viable option due to the expense and my promising future within the police. After the economic crisis in 2008, the government changed some legislation, which meant I would be required to work a further 11 years before I would be able to retire. I had also met my beautiful wife, and we were making plans for the future and growing our family.

Towards the end of 2015, after the birth of our second child, my wife bought me a discovery flight at my local flight school. During the flight, all of my childhood feelings toward aviation rushed back at the same time. Around the same time, my wife and I desired moving back to her home in the United States. I started seriously exploring the possibility of becoming a pilot, and after some research, I found Aerosim Flight Academy in Sanford Florida (now L3). I was drawn to this academy because of its accreditation, its locality, and its reputable training history. What sealed the deal for me, was learning that L3 had acquired the Airline Academy and was in its transition phase. The recruitment staff at the flight school were extremely helpful and well versed with the process, offering assistance with the transition for matters like visas and financing. I enrolled in February 2017 on a scholarship program in the Airline Pilot Track (APT) and have enjoyed every moment since. My progress was quick, and the quality of teaching in the part 141 (full time flight training) program met my high expectations.

During the process of becoming an instructor at L3, I enrolled in Envoy’s Cadet Instructor program. This means that as soon as I attain the required flight experience, I will have a job at Envoy, a regional airline. The best thing about becoming a cadet instructor is that I am building company seniority within the American Airlines group whilst I am teaching at the academy! I also enjoy the travel benefits, like any other American Airlines employee, along with contributions to my retirement and medical benefits for myself and my family.

L3 is a fantastic company to work for and its location in Sanford is a wonderful environment to work in. Now is the best time in aviation history to become a pilot, the demand for pilots is strong and can only grow stronger with the projected mandatory retirement figures over the next five years. My advice to anyone considering changing careers is this:

It’s going to be tough: Like any new subject there is lots of material to become familiar with; if you haven’t studied aviation and aerodynamics before expect to have your head buried in books, watching videos and taking exams. In addition to the knowledge portion you will also need to become proficient and safe flying an aircraft. L3 will help with this by offering free back-seating on flights and ground briefs, there is also a plethora of knowledge around the academy including tutors on hand in the learning resource center.

Expect to make sacrifices: I would often have to sacrifice evenings with my children and wife preparing for the next day’s flight or studying for an exam. Expect and be prepared to make some form of sacrifice to your routine. Remember it will pay off dividends in the end.

Don’t give up after failure: It’s not the failure that stops us, it’s that some stop at their first failure. A career in commercial aviation means a career of continuous evaluations and exams. At some point along your journey the odds favor a failure at some point. Have the mind set of “this is my goal and I will do whatever it takes to achieve it”. Learn from your failure, help that failure to make you smarter and stronger and don’t stop until that dream becomes a reality.

Have a plan and stay determined: Set your objectives before you start your journey, do not change them and focus on what you can do to achieve your goals.

Savor every moment: Flying is a privilege afforded to very few, remember that when things might seem bad or certain knowledge topics are boring. There isn’t a better feeling than flying thousands of feet above the hustle and bustle on earth, enjoying all of the color changes during a sunset or the local theme park fireworks, or a Space X launch from the Space Coast.

Lastly and most importantly, I would like to thank my wonderful wife Camille for being so supportive and taking on an extra load of parenting work throughout this process; also to my children Nyla, Demi & Hugo for their relentless encouragement.

To anyone reading this that wants further information, or has any questions, my Instagram username is @karlitofandango. Don’t hesitate to reach out!