AT COMMUTEAIR, WE HAVE GREAT PEOPLE WITH GREAT STORIES TO SHARE.
As a regional airline and United Express partner, we play an important role in connecting people and communities to the world via United Airlines’ global network, but we’re also a critical step in the careers of those working in the airline industry. Our “Featured Crew” series tells the individual stories of standout members of our team whose hard work makes our organization unique.
We’re taking this opportunity to share a story from one of the standout members of our diverse team: First Officer – Peyton Arata! Peyton is one of our most active pilots – Having interned at United, Peyton is also active with our pilot union (ALPA) and can often be found representing CommuteAir at industry events like the Women in Aviation International Conference!
What was it that first interested you in aviation?
Whenever I’m asked that question, I like to call it my “Senior-Year Crisis!” I was participating in a dual program through my High School with the University of Texas and was able to take the first preliminary classes for a Political Science major. During my studies I had a realization that if I was going to do this for the next four years…I was going to be hating life! So I started to consider some alternative career paths.
My dad was and still is a pilot so I always had that influence in my life growing up. He took us to air shows, he talked about airplanes, and I thought, “I might do that one day,” but it was always something I considered more of a hobby than a career path. During my search for colleges, I discovered one I was interested in that had an aviation program. So, I toured and really fell in love with the campus and the culture. I figured, “Well, if aviation doesn’t work out to be a good thing, they have 100 other majors to choose from!” When I told my parents I had applied to an aviation college their jaws dropped…they didn’t expect it at all!
It wasn’t until I was working on my private license that I fell in love with aviation. It really wasn’t a ‘love at first flight’ kind of thing, but through the process I just really fell wholeheartedly in love with it.
How has being a pilot helped you succeed in other areas of life?
Being in aviation can be a little different from other industries because it is so specialized. Lots of training, flight hours, and certifications don’t correlate or carry over to something else – and you need to be type-rated to be able to fly each kind of aircraft! On paper, sometimes you don’t see all the skills and training that we have as commercial pilots: Decision-making, leadership, accountability, prioritization, and punctuality are all important qualities that we develop in our training.
What are some of your dreams for the future?
I’m getting close to hitting the time required to upgrade to Captain and that’s definitely an exciting route! I have gotten good at the role of First Officer, so during my trips, I’ve started looking over to the left seat and asking myself, “What is the captain doing? What are they thinking?” It’s exciting to think of myself as a Captain, but I’m also involved with the Pilot Union (ALPA) negotiating committee, and I really enjoy doing union work as well. It’s really empowering to actually be part of the change that I want to see! Those opportunities in aviation have also reignited some of my passion for Political Science, and I’ve been considering a path that would take me to Capitol Hill where I could focus on issues that affect everyone in the aviation industry! It’s a great time to be in aviation!
Is there a moment that influenced or helped shape your career?
My internship at United Airlines definitely made an impact on me. The Fall Career Fair for the university I attended was right around the corner and I was an ambassador for the aviation program. The United Recruiters came to campus early, and when they arrived and I gave them a tour of the campus. This one-on-one time with the recruiting team allowed me to ask questions and become more familiar with United and what it would mean to be an intern there. I also got to meet some of the CommuteAir folks who were with the UA team, and through these conversations, I decided to apply for the United Flight Ops Internship program.
I got the internship and was sent off to Chicago! The exposure I had through that experience was amazing and I got to learn so much: Airport operations, dispatching, scheduling, what happens on the ramp, pre and post flight procedures…I really got to see inside the whole industry. What ultimately convinced me to fly in the United Network was the culture I experienced during my internship. It was clear that everyone had the same mindset, “We have a hard job to do, and we’re going to do it well, but we’re going to have fun in the process!”
What’s been your experience being a woman in aviation? What advice would you give to the next generation of aviators?
It’s definitely been a fun experience so far – I’ve learned a lot about life! Being a young FO, it’s interesting because the industry has been on the up-and-up ever since I’ve been here. It’s never been a better time to be a pilot, but I’ve heard so many stories about how the industry can change from more experienced pilots: 9/11, the 2008 economic crisis, and the 2020 pandemic!
That said: Don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled! Throughout my career, I’ve made decisions that went against the grain. Sometimes I doubted myself because I had friends who grew up knowing they were going to be a pilot their whole life. All those risks have led to the biggest rewards. If your situation isn’t like everyone else’s, and the pack is taking route A but you think Route B is better, then all means go Route B! Your journey belongs to you, so don’t let people tell you otherwise.