LATHAM, NEW YORK – Sipping coffee (and a beer) in a basement bedroom full of aircraft posters, toy models, and airline memorabilia, 48-year-old Jacob Stevens was in good spirits yesterday, despite waiting over 25 years for the Federal Aviation Administration to let him know if he landed his dream job of becoming an air traffic controller.
“I mean, look, any day, that could be the day,” he said, with a stern attitude. We met with Jacob as part of our ‘discovering American Youth’ series, in which we travel the country learning about what types of careers Millennials are trying to land; only Jacob isn’t a Millennial.
“I graduated college in 1991, and you know, I can’t really relate to kids these days. I was blasting Appetite for Destruction on cassette, and feeling the wind in my long hair, as I peeled away from SUNY Albany in my ’89 Subaru XT the day I graduated, hell, that thing had a Dolby stereo,” he said, enthusiastically. “I don’t use this e-mail thing, or instant grams, or whatever,” he added, with the soft pulse of Go West emanating from his Pioneer sound system in the corner.
Despite applying for the position of air traffic control specialist in 1991, and being told that he had a ‘tentative offer letter’, Jacob is still waiting for a class date at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
“They told me it would be about two to three months, but sometimes it might take a little longer. I still have this phone, right here,” he said, pointing to a rotary phone, in the corner of his bedroom. “I just know, one day, hopefully soon, it’ll ring, and my dreams of heading to N90 or ZLA will finally come true.”
Despite the positive energy during the interview, Jacob admits he sometimes has doubts. “Sometimes I get down, like, will this ever happen? But I don’t let that worry me too much. I can’t worry about things I can’t control. I still practice my arc DME holding every day, and study my airline identifiers religiously,” he said, going through a massive list that includes airlines like Pan Am, American West, Mohawk Airlines, TWA, Midway Airlines, Pacific Southwest Airlines, and others.
“It also pays to really, really have your aircraft identifiers down, too, in case I get assigned a control tower like the one currently at Meigs Field in Chicago. The L-1011 is probably my favorite plane, followed by the 727-100. I absolutely love the sound of those planes. I can’t wait until I can tell one to position and hold on my airport,” Jacob said, lighting up a cigarette as he sat on his shag rug, Eddie Money now playing from his
We were briefly interrupted as Jacobs mom asked him if he wanted anything for lunch. “MOM, I told you, LEAVE ME ALONE!”, he shouted, passionately.
Jacob seems endlessly obsessed about aviation, and you can feel that when he starts talking about the sacrifices he made while waiting for his class date.
“I’ve turned down some good job offers, but right now, I mean, I’m happy here in my bedroom, and I’ll keep studying until that day happens,” he said. We tried to ask him more questions, but he was too busy trying to get VATSIM to work on his 486 home computer. “These fucking floppy drives always crap out on me,” he said, slamming his fist on his desk.
Join us next week, when we interview an airline pilot from the regionals who is still waiting for his upgrade to the majors after 41 years.