June is Pride month, so we wanted to feature one of our volunteer LGBTQ+ pilots who allows ATC to continue bringing joy and hope to so many kids. Meet Matt! Thank you for all that you do.
1. How did you hear about ATC?
A few years back Mike and Tara D’Alessandro, who I’ve known since Cape Airlines circa 2005 reached out to me about Above the Clouds. I came to a Dream Flight Day and instantly was hooked. I really enjoyed the mission and the atmosphere instantly.
2. What do you love about flying?
I would have to say I like the freedom that comes with the profession. One mile of road can take you one mile in a car. One mile of pavement can take you anywhere that airplane can get to. For someone like myself who grew up very very modestly it’s been a privilege seeing the world on my airline (American Airlines group). The rush of taking off and being in command of a flying machine whether it be a piper warrior or a Boeing 767 that can take you anywhere on Earth is something that’s hard to describe. It’s unlike anything else.
3. How long have you been a pilot?
I have been a pilot since the fall of 2003 when I enrolled in the Bridgewater State College aviation program.
4. What made you want to become a pilot?
I have known and had the itch for aviation since I was about 4 years old. I was always walking around looking at the sky. For many of my fellow aviators their stories are similar.
5. As an LGBTQ+ pilot do you feel a sense of responsibility to impact your community?
I am a member of the NGPA (National Gay Pilots Association). I was very young during all the strife in the 80s and 90s for gay rights. (Born in 1985). This organization paved the way for helping LGBTQ+ pilots as a support system. Today it has grown to about 3000 members. Every year during Boston pride I run a float with an american eagle blow up airplane towed by my truck. Myself and other members of the NGPA as well as many of my straight friends march in Boston’s pride parade. It is important to me to convey that no matter who you love or want to marry that you can achieve your life long goals with hard work and dedication. This is how I personally connect with the community and show them they can be anything.
6. Is there another LGBTQ pilot you idolize?
When I first joined the NGPA one of the first people I met was Captain Jan Anderson. She is currently a Captain on the Boeing 777 at American Airlines. She was very kind and welcoming and put me at ease.
Right now I currently teach our new pilots how to fly the Embraer 145 jet on the Piedmont side of the American operation. For many, this is their first job as an airline pilot. To build professionalism I tell the captain candidates (prior experience who are about to be pilot in command of the aircraft after their training) to tell me what they think it takes to be a captain? What qualities do they possess and what should you try to emulate? You want someone who is calm, thorough and knowledgeable. Someone who is a leader but also approachable. Someone who can handle all the threats we face everyday while keeping our customers, crew and the aircraft safe during flight. Someone like Sully…or an old school Pan Am captain or better yet someone like Jan. These people do not crack under pressure. After knowing her the last few years, I can tell by her demeanor she encompasses all the things I mentioned above. I haven’t flown with her yet but once this economic slowdown is over that is one of my goals. I look up to Jan for many reasons and these are just a few of them. She has served as Vice President of the NGPA and set a great example for all of us to follow.
7. What would you say to a young person who wants to become a pilot?
I would first congratulate them on their desire to join such a unique community. Explain to them that it is a long road but the juice is worth the squeeze. The ability to fly is something sacred and special to aviators. It’s a tight knit community and everyone is welcome to join if they have the passion. The world is at their fingertips
8. How do you think ATC is changing lives?
All you have to do is go by the faces of these kids after they’ve gone flying. Some come for one day. Others decide to pursue flying lessons afterward with our guidance. Many of these kids have never seen an airplane up close. It is amazing to just for one day be able to remove these kids from their difficult situation and make them feel loved, appreciated and free.
It also helps the volunteers. My brothers and I had a challenging upbringing in some ways and I had some of the best role models who weren’t in my immediate family to help me. David Willey, my mentor, my grandma, my god mother, and my uncle. These people went above and beyond for me and my brothers. Above the Clouds gives me a chance to pay it forward. If we can change the trajectory of just one child’s negative path it’s a success. To serve this organization has been one of the greatest honors of my life.
9. Describe ATC in one word