Soaring Toward Dreams with Brandon Cultra


Brandon Cultra is a captain for Republic Airlines, a regional service for American, United and Delta.  This week on Sam’s Dream Blog, Brandon shares about achieving long-awaited dreams, the patience required and why the wait is worth it.

Sam's Dream Blog: What’s your professional dream? How did your dream originate? How has it evolved?

Brandon Cultra: Based in Columbus, Ohio for the last seven years, I have been building valuable experience. With that said, my professional dream is to fly for American Airlines. And if you want me to be very specific, I want to be based in Miami flying the 757. This would allow me to fly both international and domestic flights, and migrate south of the freezing midwest.

My dream originated when I was about four years old from my dad.  He has always had a fascination with flying, and that has been imparted to me. Almost since I could walk, I was learning to fly radio control airplanes with my dad. When I started flying, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. The airlines were a mystery, and I just knew that I wanted to fly airplanes. Now after eight years of airline experience I know exactly who, where, and what I want to fly.

SDB: What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Brandon Cultra: Recently I upgraded from First Officer to Captain. It took eight years for me to have this opportunity, due to forces beyond my control, governing the industry.  Most people know that there are two pilots up front in the cockpit. They both are well trained and fully capable of flying the airplane. However, the bulk of the responsibility falls on the captain. He has the final say when it comes to the safety of the flight, and he is the first one people turn to when there is a problem. I am so proud to finally have the privilege of being that person who manages the flight.

SDB: What have been the biggest obstacles or challenges to realizing your dream?

Brandon Cultra: My largest obstacle has been a financial one. Most people think airline pilots make big money, and they would be right when referring to a pilot at United, Delta and American. However, the small regional airlines pay their pilots quite poorly. My first year as an airline pilot I made around sixteen thousand dollars. That was first-year pay, and it did increase over the years as a first officer, but it never exceeded forty thousand a year.

Captains at the regionals do make more. However, it takes about 15 years of service to break the six figure mark, which brings me back to the forces beyond my control. The FAA raised the mandatory retirement age of airline pilots from 60 to 65 years old. This is why I was stuck as a regional First Officer for as long as I was. In years past, people upgraded to Captain in two years or less. Now that the older pilots are starting to retire, the whole industry is back to normal progression. Unlucky timing for me caused the long career stagnation.

SDB: What advice do you have for others in pursuit of their dreams?

Brandon Cultra: For a total of 10 years I waited patiently to advance my career and to finally make a decent wage. I am not looking for sympathy; I was doing what I love to do. Having patience to see my dream out has been extremely difficult.  So, my advice to those in the pursuit of their dream is to never give up! Despite the long years of waiting, the future looks bright and I cannot wait to finally realize my dream!

Thanks for reading!  Tell me about a dream you are pursuing below in the comments!