A pilot who first learned to fly in Dalton will soon be carrying passengers across the country with Delta Airlines. Jacob White, who first began his pilot training while still in high school, is currently a captain with Endeavor Airlines in New York and will begin work with Delta in April.

“We had a family friend (Bob Fischer) who owns a plane there at the airport and he took me up flying one day and I just got addicted to aviation, honestly,” White said. “I got so obsessed with aviation that our friend, he would give me aviation magazines to read and I would take them to school and read them at school. I would go through 10, 12 magazines in a week.”

White said his father had started his own pilot training before Jacob and his sister were born, but didn’t complete it. Once White became interested in flying his father supported his flight training and the family bought an airplane from another pilot in Dalton and began training with a flight instructor at the Dalton Municipal Airport. White completed his private pilot’s license soon after his 2015 graduation from Coahulla Creek High School and continued his studies at Middle Georgia State University’s School of Aviation.

“After I graduated Middle Georgia, I started working at my current job with Endeavor Airlines. I went to training in Minneapolis, right before COVID, I got hired in January of 2020. I finished training before they closed down our training center for the pandemic, and then I was working in New York,” White said. “It’s been kind of a wild ride through the pandemic and everything to be New York based. We weren’t flying a lot, let’s put it that way.”

White earned the rank of captain with Endeavor Airlines, flying the Bombardier CRJ 200, 700 and 900 aircraft. Not only has he enjoyed flying for a living, he’s also enjoying being part of the aviation community.

“Everybody that I started my initial class with at Endeavor, we’re still friends. People have left, people have gone to other companies, but we’re all still great friends,” White said. “I’d highlight how small of a community aviation is. I still talk to people that I met at school who are at Frontier or at United and ask them how things are going or if they like it. I’ve got friends at Jet Blue, I’ve got friends trying to put in to go to Fed Ex. Once you get into this part of the community, everybody knows everybody. It’s very important for aviators to network and keep in touch with each other.”

White will begin the indoctrination process with Delta next month, undergoing training and testing not just on the company’s aircraft but also on the airline’s policies and procedures.

After he completes his training at the company’s home base in Atlanta he’ll find out where he will be based and what aircraft he’ll be flying.

With a growing national shortage of professional pilots, learning to fly can be more than a hobby. Pilots have the opportunity to turn their love of flying into a career, and that can start at local airports like the Dalton Municipal Airport.

“We have a flight school operating here now that has been open just over a year, they’ve got two flight instructors and two airplanes and they have about 35 active students,” said Andrew Wiersma, manager of the Dalton Municipal Airport. “Some people just sort of do it as a hobby and then they really just fall in love with it as soon as they get up in the air and they end up wanting to do it as a career ... it used to be a little more focused towards the hobby side probably 10 years ago.

“Now because of the pilot shortage across the nation there’s been a big strong pull for airline pilots so there are a lot more people who are focused more on careers in aviation. It’s kind of a cool thing to see people like Jacob start out from scratch and that’s really where a lot of your airline pilots who are flying commercial airliners today, they all started at small airports like the Dalton airport, just walking in and saying ‘I’d like to learn how to fly.’”

“There’s a huge need for every position in aviation, whether that’s someone who wants to sit behind a desk and do dispatching work, whether it’s someone who wants to go into logistics for the company and getting contracts together to carry freight, I mean, there is so much you can do,” said White. “One of the things about (Middle Georgia State), they also have an aviation maintenance program. If someone isn’t wanting to get into a large amount of debt, those maintenance programs are wonderful options for getting your education and not being so far under the student debt.”

Much like the tight-knit community of professional pilots, White said the local aviation community is also a small and welcoming group to pilots old and new alike.

“The airport itself, everyone is extremely supportive and they want to see you succeed, and you make tons of friends just by being out there and talking to people,” White said.

“Flying in itself is expensive, there are cheaper ways to do it, and being at the Dalton Airport is one of those ways to do it where you can get your license without spending an arm and a leg and still be around people in your own community, in the Dalton community.”

“You get a lot of support when you’re working on your license because other pilots are always excited and supportive of new people coming in and especially with the push right now that we’ve seen,” Wiersma agreed. “We’re certainly seeing a huge increase in flight instruction, not just here but really nationwide.”

As for White, even though his career is just beginning he sometimes has moments that feel like he has come full circle. Thanks to his instructor qualifications, he recently was able to take his old family friend Bob Fischer for the recertification flight to renew Fischer’s license.

“It’s kind of ironic, and Bob will tell you, he joked when I gave him his recertification that I’m flying his airplane better than he is and I shouldn’t be flying the airplane better than the owner, and we laugh about that,” White said with a laugh.

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