Finding your true calling sometimes starts without you even knowing the call is coming.
At the tender young age of six, Thomas Kieffer, a newly upgraded DTW-based CRJ-200 captain, knew his future would come with wings. His fascination with flying started by hearing stories from his cousin, a pilot for a large freight carrier. His cousin would regale in stories of traversing the globe far and wide. For his seventh birthday, Kieffer made a wish on a cake covered with a cargo plane cast in frosting. Little would he know just a few short years later, that dream he wished that day of becoming a pilot would come true.
Rob Kiszka shared a similar story. His grandfather was a pilot in the U.S. Navy and flewoff aircraft carriers. As the two spent time together, unbeknownst to Rob, an engrained interest in exploring a similar path grew. While military aviation wasn’t a path Rob chose, he did learn to fly before he could drive a car, and for that he credits his grandpa’s commitment to teaching the basics of aviation.
“He would sit with me and teach me how to use an E6B Flight Computer,” Kiszka said. “Once I was able to get a job and pay for a discovery flight, I knew my place would be somewhere in the sky.”
Forming a Brotherly Bond in Flight
Thomas and Rob’s paths crossed at Purdue University. Kieffer was a senior, a certified flight instructor, and taking the freshman flyer under his wings – literally – as a flight student. During their first flight together as instructor and student, the two formed a distinctly unique bond that would grow throughout their time together.
“Growing up, I was always following in my big brother’s footsteps,” Kiszka added. “When we went our separate ways at different universities, I was really on my own for the first time in my life.”
That’s when, Rob noted, Kieffer became more like an adoptive brother, showing him not just the ways of the wing, but how to adjust to life on campus at a large school like Purdue.
“Rob and I just had a great time from the first flight all the way to the last,” Kieffer recalled. “Rob came into Purdue with some flight experience, and that just made it really easy to fly with him because of that experience.”
“He just really took me in and taught me about the realities of becoming a professional in the flight deck,” Kiszka said. “As Thomas graduated and started his career at Endeavor, we stayed in touch and it’s been pretty awesome to see how both our paths continue to align.”
All Runways Lead to Endeavor
When Thomas Kieffer was hired at Endeavor in July, 2015, he wanted to get as involved as possible within his new role. After completing all phases of training, he expressed his interest in joining the Pilot Outreach Team. With his connections at Purdue, there was mutual interest in having Kieffer join the team.
Over the next year, Thomas found himself learning the ropes of recruiting, and was able to share his own insights with candidates on what it takes to join a regional airline. His recruiting journey found him crisscrossing the country for Endeavor, and ultimately, landing back in West Lafayette and in the halls of Purdue’s aviation program again.
Rob Kiszka, while focused on his school and training, watched from afar as his former instructor was building time at Endeavor, while also giving back to the next generation of aviators. Inspired by what he saw, Rob reconnected with Thomas and offered to help however he could.
In January, Rob was hired to be Endeavor’s first Campus Brand Ambassador at Purdue
University. In his role, he’ll help share the news of Endeavor’s success with the more than 250 aviation students at the school, while working as an onsite coordinator for campus recruiting events.
“I knew from talking with Thomas and seeing his career progression, Endeavor was the place to be,” noted Kiszka. “
“There’s a great network of alumni here at Purdue University that help students like Rob and his classmates,” added Kieffer. “That really helps students find the track and career that they want to go into, offering mentorship in achieving their dream career.”
“Knowing that Thomas will be there in the left seat when my time comes to start in the right seat at Endeavor take a lot of pressure off me,” Kiszka concluded. “It’s also inspiring to keep working hard for that achievement. The biggest thing is knowing I might get to fly with Thomas. It will be a very calming experience, just like old times.”
To learn more about ways you can get involved with the Pilot Outreach Team, send an email to: Pilot.Outreach@endeavorair.com