Becoming a commercial airline pilot requires a tremendous amount of hard work and dedication. No one knows that better than First Officer Marlon Dayes, whose journey to the Compass flight deck was fraught with challenges. “Whenever I tell other pilots about how I got here, a lot of them get emotional and express how proud they are of me,” Marlon says.
Marlon was born in Jamaica, where he was raised by a single mother. “We didn’t have much, but my mother always told me to believe, because we would find a way.” When Marlon was five, he took his first airplane ride to the United States. The pilots showed him the cockpit, and he was hooked. He was going to be a pilot. He would find a way.
Six years ago, Marlon moved to the United States, where he hoped to find a better life and study aviation. Eventually, all of the pieces fell into place, and he was given the opportunity to study aviation at Florida Institute of Technology.
“At first, I struggled to find the finances for school, but many miracles and blessings fell upon me, allowing me to receive world class aviation training.”
After finishing his degree in Aviation Management with an airline pilot focus, Marlon reached ATP minimums by working as a flight instructor at FIT Aviation, LLC, a flight school affiliated with his alma mater.
When the time came to apply for a commercial airline job, Marlon knew that he wanted to fly the Embraer 175, which made his decision to interview with Compass an easy one. Now he’s a Los Angeles-based First Officer, flying the Embraer 175 in some of the world’s busiest air space. As a new commercial pilot, one of his biggest challenges was learning to follow Air Traffic Control’s speed assignments, then slowing down quickly and configuring for landing. “Flying commercially has taught me to plan way ahead, as well as to think and react faster,” he remarked.
One of the things about Compass that impresses Marlon the most is its commitment to safety.”It’s in my DNA now to always make safety my number one priority. The safety culture at Compass is amazing.”
While Marlon admits that it was challenging to adjust to the Embraer 175 after flight instructing in a light twin engine aircraft, his fellow pilots have mentored him every step of the way and are committed to his success.
I’ve had very good mentors. Compass is my first real crew environment, and I’ve been blessed to fly with good Captains that value teamwork, as well as my input. Starting my flying career here at Compass has been nothing short of a dream come true.”
We received the below note from one of our passengers, who was blown away the kindness she was shown by a Compass crew on a recent flight. The passenger had received the worst possible news – her mother had suffered a stroke, and had only hours to live. She desperately wanted to get from Los Angeles to the hospital in Houston in time to say good by. However, her flight to Houston was delayed because another passenger was experiencing a medical emergency. She told a flight attendant about her situation and hoped for the best. As she relays below, the personal response that she received from our flight crew during the delay was beyond anything that she had ever experienced.
On December 3 of 2016, I received a phone call letting me know that my mother had less that 24 hours to live. She had suffered a severe stroke and it was imperative that I go to Houston immediately. I made my way to LAX and boarded the first flight I could get. We had left the gate and were taxiing toward the runway when a passenger took ill. It was decided that they should be taken off the plane.
I wrote a note which I gave to the flight attendant explaining that I understood about the emergency, but if there was any way to expedite the process, I would appreciate it as every minute counted. What happened next was so kind, touching, and heartfelt, that it has brought endless tears to my eyes … and those same tears to the eyes of everyone with whom I’ve shared this story.
A pilot came and spoke with me directly, introducing himself as Captain Seth Dunmyer. He thanked me for my patience and told me that they were doing everything they could. Shortly after that, a flight attendant asked me to come with her. She wanted me closer to the exit door. She took down my bag and I followed her to my new seat in First Class. I was given a box of tissues and made to feel comfortable. Once safely in the air, I was given a handwritten note. I would like to share with you the contents of that note:
My name is Seth Dunmyer. I am your Captain on your flight this evening to Houston. First off, I want to thank you for your understanding and patience during the delay we experienced on the ground in Los Angeles. The passenger was in need of medical care according to an on board physician, and was unable to continue to Houston. Thank you again!
I also want to express my condolences to you and your family as you are all rushing to be by her side in the hospital. I promise you we are going to get you there as safely and quickly as possible.
I am not sure if you are a person who believes in God or not, but in these times … I wanted you to know that I have already said a prayer for your mother, and I do believe he will be looking over her. I believe I can speak for the entire crew in wishing the best for you, your mother, and your family as you all deal with this difficult situation.
With Deepest Sympathy,
Captain Seth Dunmyer
If we’re living in a world where acts of kindness will have increased value, Captain Dunmyer and his crew have taken that to heart. No amount of advertising, PR, well-placed articles, or high-end videos can begin to compare to the profound heart and soul of the words and actions of Captain Dunmeyer and his American Eagle crew.
Congratulations to you, and all the men and women at American Airlines, for the magnificent company you’ve created.
By the way, Mom is still with us. We are calling her Miracle Mary. Thank you for your prayers, Captain Dunmyer.
Captain Dunmyer and his entire crew will be entered in our Above & Beyond contest, a quarterly program that recognizes employees who have gone beyond what is required of them. We couldn’t be prouder of the kindness and humanity shown by these Compass employees.
One of the best things about working in the airline industry is the travel benefits. Airline employees are fortunate to have a wide range of affordable air fare options available to them, ranging from free domestic travel, to heavily discounted international travel. As a result, airline families tend to travel a lot, and children from airline families often develop a love for travel at young age. When those children grow into teenagers afflicted by wanderlust, they can spend up to two weeks in another country as part of a special program for airline families called the International Youth Exchange.
The International Youth Exchange pairs up teens from airline families in different countries and gives them each the opportunity to spend two weeks with the family they are matched with. After a participant spends two weeks with a host family, they return home, and the teen they were matched with stays with them for two weeks.
Participants are matched based on similarities in age, gender, and interests, as well as where they would like to visit. Available locations include the United States, Europe, Canada, and Australia. After the teens are matched and dates are decided, the participants communicate with one another so that they can get to know each other, as well as decide what activities they would like to do during their summer exchange.
The International Youth Exchange is the brainchild of Camille Wheeler, a retired Northwest Airlines employee, and the mother of Compass Airlines Captain Aaron Wheeler. Camille is the mother of four, and international travel for a family of six can be expensive, even with pass benefits. On the International Youth Exchange website, Camille explains that the program was born from her desire for her children to be able to affordably travel abroad, learn different languages, and experience new cultures. Aaron says that his mom first got the idea for the program when his family took a trip to France when he was younger. She was looking for different options to avoid hotel costs, and began making connections with other airline families abroad.
Camille soon realized that there were other airline families all over the world who were interested in affordable international travel opportunities for their children. The program slowly began to take shape. Teens could fly overseas using their parents’ pass privileges, and stay for free for two weeks with an airline host family. Then the teens would switch, and a teen from host family could visit the other teen’s home during a separate two week visit.
In 1994, Camille connected with a Swiss Air gate agent in Geneva, Switzerland, and young Aaron became the first participant in the International Youth Exchange program. He was matched with a Swiss teen, Greg Cunnet, who was around the same age, and shared his interests. “When Greg came to visit, we just hung out, played baseball and biked,” Aaron recalls. When Aaron and Greg first met, Greg was only beginning to learn English. “Since he grew up traveling in airplanes, he would always read the safety instructions. In fact, the first time that we met, all he could say in English was, ‘Fast-ten-seat-belt.'”
After Greg stayed with his family, Aaron visited Geneva and stayed with Greg’s family. Aaron recalls mostly doing things that were familiar to him from back home. “We went swimming, biked around town, and even played Monopoly. Even a young age, I was struck by how we had more in common than not, even though we lived so far apart.” Aaron and Greg continued to visit each other for 7 years through the program, and are still friends. “We still visit each other when we can,” Aaron said. “I even went to his wedding about a year and a half ago.”
The International Youth Exchange has come a long way from its one inaugural participant in 1994. It has since placed over 6,000 students in exchanges. “In 1994,” jokes Aaron, “we just had a single fax machine running twenty-four-seven. We would get applications from Europe in the middle of the night! But now, applicants can apply online.”
Aaron continues to help his mother with the program, who is now devoted to it full-time. “I actually matched a young boy from Minneapolis,” recalls Aaron, “and his mom happened to be my gate agent for a while. Every couple of months, we would bump into each other, and she would say how much her son enjoyed the experience.” He recounts another story from years ago, in which a young person was matched up with a family in Seattle. The father of the family flew for an airline in the area. The program participant loved Seattle so much, that years later, he got in touch with the father and ended up working for that same airline.
Aaron’s experiences with the International Youth Exchange have stayed with him through the years, and he encourages other airline families to take advantage of the opportunities for travel and friendship that the program offers. “I truly believe that there is no better way to experience another country than with someone your own age,” he says.
The International Youth Exchange is currently accepting applications for new exchanges. Visit their website to learn more and apply online.
Los Angeles-based Flight Attendant Deborah Gorney has found a pretty remarkable way to give back to the community in her spare time. For the past 7 years, she’s been part of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Volunteer Mounted Unit with her horse, Luke. These trained volunteers act as “extra eyes” for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, providing mounted observation patrols everywhere from busy mall parking lots to high school sporting events. The mounted volunteers also appear with the Sheriff’s department at community outreach events and school visits.
Each December, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department sponsors a number of Santa appearances in the communities it serves. Several years ago, Deborah’s volunteer work took a festive turn when she was asked to assume the role of Mrs. Claus at these annual events. In this guest post, Deborah relates what it’s like to spend her Decembers as Mrs. Claus, and why the experience has meant so much to her.
I have been working with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for many years now. I started in the mounted unit doing trail patrols, as well as appearing at law enforcement events in the school and community with my Sheriff horse, Luke.
One day, my Sergeant approached me and asked if I would become the department’s Mrs. Santa Claus. He and his wife had been playing Santa and Mrs. Claus, but they they were retiring, and the department needed a new team. Of course I agreed! My Lieutenant and long time friend, Karl Claas, agreed to be Santa so that we could be a team. It was going to be so wonderful making thousands of children happy during the Christmas season!
During these events, Santa and Mrs. Claus ride a sleigh pulled by a Sheriff department truck. We are escorted by many Deputy Sheriffs in their patrol cars. They let the kids know we’re on our way by flashing their horns, making announcements over the PA system, and sounding their horns and sirens.
We do this for three weeks in December, almost every night. We have anywhere from 12-18 stops per night, and we cover the areas Palos Verdes, Lomita, and San Pedro. Each night, about 400 to 500 children visit us. They sit on our laps and tell us what they would like for Christmas. The little ones usually prefer to sit on Mrs. Claus’ lap because Santa can be a little intimidating when you’re little. Besides, everyone knows that Mrs. Claus loves babies!
Santa and I love making the children happy. Their eyes sparkle when they see us and, it’s priceless! However, Santa and I have also heard many sad things from young children. Some children have asked Santa and I to bring them shoes, because they didn’t have any. Others only wanted a little Christmas tree because their families couldn’t afford one. Some just want their parents to stop fighting. Others just wanted us to talk to their mom in heaven for them.
One day, Santa and I decided to do something to help these children. We started keeping track of children in need and asked Deputies to get their addresses. With the Sheriffs station’s help, we would get them the things they needed so desperately.
It didn’t stop there! We started getting requests to visit families who had children with disabilities that wouldn’t allow them to come see us on the sleigh. Of course, we went to their homes and brought them gifts! We also started getting requests to make appearances at different events and at schools for special needs children and adults alike.
Sometimes our days go from early in the morning to late at night. But it’s for such a wonderful cause! During a recent event, we visited a military base and brought toys to the children of active duty military personnel. We love making children of all ages happy. It is the most rewarding experience ever. We would not trade it for anything.
When I was younger, Christmas was always my favorite time of the year. Now I understand that together, we can make a difference in children’s lives over the holidays.
With Love from Santa and Mrs. Claus
From Mrs. Claus and the entire Compass team, we wish you a safe and happy holiday season!
“For many, the holidays are a fun time that involve spending time with family, and giving and receiving gifts,” explains Compass First Officer Laura Miner, who is also the President of the Los Angeles Chapter of Women in Aviation. “But the holidays can be really hard for families who are struggling financially.” When her Women in Aviation chapter adopted a family for Christmas through the Cathedral of our Lady the Angels program, Laura saw a great opportunity to team up with Compass to do even more good. Laura got Compass involved, and with the additional support, the groups were able to adopt an additional family.
Laura’s fellow Compass employees rallied to the cause, and pitched in to purchase clothing, toys and household items for the two families – a family of three, and another family of five, including a little girl with heart disease.
Last Saturday, Compass employees spent the day at Pacific Skies Aviation, where they wrapped toys for the families they adopted, as well as helped out with Pacific Skies’ annual Toy Drive.
Laura said that the best part of the toy drive was seeing Compass employees get so excited about helping the adopted families. “Everyone wanted to make sure that Christmas was special for them,” she added
We are honored to have been part of such a special event! To learn more about how you can get involved in the Cathedral of our Lady of the Light’s Adopt A Family program, please click here.
Wings Of Rescue is an animal transport charity that flies animals from shelters with high-intake rates to no-kill shelters in other areas that have waiting lists for adoptable pets. The program, which utilizes Pilatus PC-12 aircraft, is always looking for qualified pilots to transport the animals to their new homes. Some of the pets that are pulled from the original shelters for transport are already scheduled for euthanasia and have only hours left to live.
Los Angeles-based First Officer Alexei Tsekoun started flying for Wings Of Rescue in 2015, and is an ardent supporter of its mission. “I’ve always been very passionate about animals,” Alexei said. “They may not be human, but we’re saving their lives. Without bringing them to another area, they would be put down.”
Alexi later introduced fellow Compass pilot Cassandra Shultz to the organization. Cassandra, an animal lover who had always wanted to fly the Pilatus PC-12, knew immediately that Wings of Rescue would be a perfect fit for her. “Interacting with animals is important to me, but I don’t have a pet because I’m always traveling for work,” Cassandra explains. “I knew that this would be an opportunity for me to combine two things that I love – animals and flying.”
Alexei says that his most memorable experience thus far with Wings of Rescue was the time that he few a large, injured dog to Seattle. “It really sticks in my mind, because of the medical attention that it needed,” he recalled. “It was such a large dog, and severely abused. Its leg was broken and in a cast.” He was relieved that he was taking this dog away from a situation where it was being abused to a new life where it could receive the love that it deserved.
Cassandra’s most memorable rescue was the first one that she participated in. During that trip, she transported around 90 dogs and cats from Salt Lake City to just outside of Denver. In addition to encountering some of the worst weather she’d ever experienced as a pilot, the trip was also incredibly eye-opening. In a post on Wings of Rescue’s blog, she relates how the importance of her mission really sank in when she realized that all of the animals that she was transporting were scheduled for euthanasia. “This wasn’t about my love for cute things or flying cool airplanes. This was immensely more meaningful. This was about salvation.”
Wings Of Rescue is always looking for pilots qualified to fly PC-12 aircraft to help transport animals. However, Alexei points out that there are many other ways that non-pilots can help out. “They always need help loading and unloading the animals on flights, cleaning cages, and even donating money can help. Flying BC-12s around the country isn’t exactly cheap.” One of the easiest ways to give is by shopping on Amazon via Wings of Rescue’s AmazonSmile link. Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible purchases to Wings Of Rescue.
For more information on how you can get involved, click here.
Compass Airlines is more than just a company. We’re a family, and we look out for one another. When a member of our Compass family was seriously injured recently, his fellow employees sprang into action to raise money for his medical expenses.
Lonnell Johnson is a maintenance contractor at our Los Angeles maintenance facility. Recently, he was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident, breaking his neck, both ankles, his pelvis, and his left hand. Lonnell’s daughter was a passenger on the motorcycle, but fortunately escaped with only minimal injuries. Thankfully, Lonnell is now back home recuperating, and his doctors expect him to make a full recovery.
However, Lonnell’s medical bills following his accident were extensive. To help Lonnell with his expenses, Compass Tech Ops Regulatory Compliance Manager Dan Sackett organized a spaghetti fundraiser and collected donations on his behalf.
The fundraiser, which was held at the Delta Air Lines Woolman Café in Minneapolis, was a big success, and raised a total of $503.00. Compass employees weren’t the only ones who donated this this great cause – employees from our mainline partner, Delta Air Lines, also chipped in, as well as employees of Minneapolis-based Endeavor Air.
“Some of the people who attended the fundraiser or donated money had never even met Lonnell, but were moved by his situation,” Dan said. “It was great to see everyone come together for a good cause.”
Contributing to the fundraiser’s success were Maintenance Control Administration Assistant Michele O’Brien, Technical Publications Coordinator Carol Johnson, and Aircraft Records Supervisor Sandy Hall, who each volunteered to serve spaghetti to attendees.
In addition to the spaghetti fundraiser, Compass mechanic David Parker also set up a GoFundMe page for Lonnell’s expenses, which numerous employees have donated to.
The kindness and generosity of the Compass team is truly remarkable!