Ken Dombrowski (BS '93, Aviation Technology & Operations
) has had just about every job in the airline industry, from fueling to flight attending, flying, and now managing a shuttle that transports more than 33,000 JCI employees every year.
As Manager of Shuttle Operations, he is in charge of scheduling, budgeting, customer service, and flying—But he didn't start his career that way.
After graduating from WMU, Dombrowski got his foot in the door working for Chrysler Pentastar as a line service technician. From there, he got another foot-in-the-door job at ATA (American Trans Air) as a flight attendant.
"Back in 93, you needed $10,000 to pay for flight training, or you needed 10,000 hours of flight time (to be an airline pilot)," said Dombrowski—getting his foot in the door sounded pretty good.
For five years he worked as a flight attendant, "It was fun, I got to travel."
Dombrowski began working on his flight instructor certificate, and when he got it, he left ATA and instructed flight for the Cape Cod Flying Circus. He also helped the maintenance shop, "so I could eat," he added.
It was just a 'catchy-name' he said, not really a circus. But it was interesting. Dombrowski instructed flight over Cape Cod, but also flew Cessna planes around the area for tours of lighthouses and aerial views.
Once he had racked up enough flight time, he moved on—this time to Continental Express, where he became a First Officer. After about a year and a half
he became a captain and then a check airman where he took on an instructor role for the new guys.
Near the end of 2007, Dombrowski was hired by Continental's main line and flew a 737 out of Newark.
From there, he landed in his currently role with JCI, and traveling is his biggest hobby, "Even if you've been to the same city 20 times, there's still something to see," he said.
"It's all about networking—the World is a small place, aviation even smaller," Dombrowski said, "All the jobs I got are because I knew someone, and that someone helped me"
And that's his biggest message to students. Dombrowski, who is open to mentoring current Aviation students, firmly believes that the connections you make along the way are very important. He also thinks it's important that recent grads don't rule anything out. Dombrowski's road to his current role may have jumped around various parts of the industry, but he's glad he did it all, "they may have seemed like little setbacks at the time, but they were really a gain—it was all good experience."
… So, can pilots hear it when passengers clap upon landing?
Yes, he said. "Sometimes the weather is horrible, and you're really working hard—making so many decisions every minute to keep people safe. People don't think about the storm or the icy runway, or all the different things you did. Sometimes you'll have a perfect landing, and people don't say anything—other times people say 'nice landing' and we really appreciate it."