For many people, the choice is fight or flight, but Tre Long chose both. He is currently a 25-year old captain and flies the CRJ 700/900. Read his story!
I attended Eastside High School in Greenville, South Carolina. A family trip to Florida in the eighth grade sparked my interest in flying. This was my first time in an airplane, and I have never forgotten that feeling since. Before we left for Florida, I had no interest in flying planes. In fact, a couple of days prior to the trip, I was pretty scared of airplanes—but things change.
The day we flew out, we boarded an MD 80 with Allegiant Airlines. As the plane started to roll down the runway for takeoff, I was holding my grandma’s hand because I was terrified. As we leveled off for cruise flight, I soon realized that this wasn’t bad at all and began to enjoy the experience. It felt like a different world in the air. We landed in Orlando, and I didn’t want the flight to end. I guess the saying “people fall in love with their fears” is true.
After that trip, I knew without a doubt that I wanted to be a pilot and fly airplanes. I even got a flight simulator game and spent countless hours playing and learning more about airplanes. I officially began flight training in my senior year of high school.
Choosing The School
Along with my love for flying, I also wrestled in high school and was searching for a college with wrestling and a flight program. There were many schools on my mind, but Marion Military Institute stood out to me. I liked the junior college environment because of the smaller structure and easier access to people, classes, campus, and administration. MMI has a flight program called the Flying Tigers. This was my favorite program at the school. The program is designed to train student pilots from zero time to become a private pilot and an instrument-rated pilot. The Flying Tigers is run by Col. Bill Hanson. He is also the manager of the airport called Vaiden Field, which is where we would fly. The advice I would like to give to anyone pursuing this career is to study the flying handbook and have fun flying airplanes.
Attending Marion Military Institute
At Marion Military Institute, I was in the Leadership Educational Program. I initially had misconceptions about attending a military school, but I enjoyed the structure of how the college was run. It felt like everyone was there for each other. If you needed help with anything, there was always somebody there to help you out. I thought adapting to the military lifestyle was going to be a challenge but that was not the case. There were some difficult times going through but everybody had my back and pushed me through the challenging times.
In my second year of attending MMI, I became a private pilot. In that process of getting my pilot license, I have learned a lot about flying and maintaining an airplane. After becoming a Private pilot at MMI, I attended ATP flight school in Richmond, VA to finish up the rest of my ratings. At that time, I have become a certified flight instructor. I knew my goal was to become an airline pilot. To become one, you would need 1500 hours of total flight time logged. I was a flight instructor for ATP for 1 1/2 years and interviewed with PSA Airlines. PSA is a wholly-owned subsidiary of American Airlines. I worked for PSA for 2 1/2 years.
I was also a wrestler at MMI. I wrestled in the heavyweight class. We would wrestle with other schools like Alabama, Auburn, Florida A&M, and many more. During my freshman year, I made it to the nationals in Dallas, TX and placed 8th. Placing 8th put me in the standings to become an All-American Wrestler