4/12/2013 11:12:00 AM Life after Graduation: Erik Johnson
by Connie Bickman
Note: This column features "hometown folks," specifically Cannon Falls and Randolph High School graduates - of any year - and their unique or interesting careers. If you know of anyone you feel would make an interesting feature, email email@example.com - their email address must be included.
Erik Johnson, Cannon Falls High School class of 2003, grew up on a farm east of Cannon Falls. "The two things that most shaped the way I approach life," he stated, "were working on the farm with my dad and grandpa. Participating in high school sports also made an impact on me. I was in football, track, and participated in several Olympic weightlifting meets each year, coached by Scott Safe. We woke up early most every day and lifted before school started. All these things taught me how to set goals and then focus and work hard to achieve them."
The son of Scott and Tesha Johnson, Cannon Falls, Erik currently lives in Saint Paul and works as a pilot for Pinnacle Airlines, a Delta Connection carrier. His siblings are Shea-Lynn (Ramthun), 25, Hastings, who will soon be moving with her husband to Indiana; and Lindsey, 21, Menomonie, WI, who is majoring in Vocational Rehabilitation at UW Stout, and studied in Scotland for a semester last year. Area grandparents are Jo and Herb (recently deceased) Johnson.
Erik said he liked the small town feel of growing up in Cannon Falls. "Everyone was friendly and easy to get along with. It felt like anywhere you went in town, you were going to run into someone you knew."
After high school Erik attended the University of North Dakota, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics with a major in Commercial Aviation.
"My grandpa, Herb, was a pilot for Northwest - retired as a 747 captain - and my dad, Scott, is also a pilot, hired by Northwest which merged with Delta a few years ago. They are two people I looked up to when I was growing up. That remains true today, in both my professional and personal life."
Erik continued, "I had always thought that maybe I'd do something different for a job, but when I started taking flying lessons at 16-years-old, I knew that's what I wanted to do for a living. My career goal coming out of high school was to become an airline pilot, which I was fortunate enough to accomplish right out of college. I got my private pilot license while still in high school, and continued getting additional flight certificates and ratings in college, on top of taking classes for my four-year degree."
Once Erik had his flight instructor certificate, he worked as a flight instructor for the University of North Dakota, while attending classes as well. "Working as a flight instructor allowed me to log enough hours to be hired by an airline, so when I graduated from college, I interviewed and was hired by Mesaba Airlines - which later merged with Pinnacle Airlines."
Erik admits that the path to becoming a pilot was fairly rigorous with many written tests, oral exams, and flight check-rides in both simulators and airplanes. "These tests were often very stressful, and they had to be balanced with other things happening in my life at the same time."
Hard work paid off for Erik. "I like my job because it's something I genuinely enjoy doing, and it's not a normal 9-5 job. Every day as an airline pilot is different, and it brings new challenges and issues to deal with. I get to travel a lot and see different parts of the country, and I work with a lot of really great people."
Erik's future plans are to continue logging hours and to move on to flying bigger airplanes for a major airline. As far an encouraging others to become a pilot, Erik has this advice. "Aviation is a career that often includes many ups and downs, can be unstable and unpredictable at times, and offers very little for starting pay. That being said, I wouldn't want to do anything else. If flying is something you love to do, I would encourage you to pursue it."