When Sarah Miller, 24, did her first officer interview with Jazz Aviation last November, they asked her how she handled conflict with a captain.
“Well,” she replied, “I’ve flown with my husband for 12 hours straight, and if I can handle that, I can handle anybody!”
Until recently, Sarah and her husband, Anthony, 23, shared the cockpit of an Exploits Valley Air Services (EVAS) Beech 1900D on a regular basis, criss-crossing Atlantic Canada for the Gander, N.L.-based third tier Air Canada connector. Logging a total of about 50 hours together in the turboprop commuter, the pair found that it wasn’t that hard to fly as a team. After all, they’d already been hanging around airports together for years.
Sarah and Anthony met at age 14 while enrolled in the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, earning their glider and private pilot licences in tandem. By 16, they were dating.
“In 2009, when I graduated high school, I decided I wanted to be a pilot. I went to Gander Flight Training (GFT) instead of going to university as I always thought I would do,” Sarah told Skies during a recent interview.
Anthony enrolled at GFT as well. The school is known throughout the industry for its policy of promoting from within. Top student grads are offered positions as flight instructors or dispatchers, before being upgraded to the right seat of a Beech 1900 for GFT’s sister company, EVAS. “The first day you walk in as a GFT student, you start your job interview for EVAS,” confirmed Anthony. “A 1900 is usually someone’s second job; but there, you could get onto it from dispatching.”
Sarah and Anthony completed their training together, finished a stint as flight instructors, and made it onto the Beech 1900D in 2012. From then until Sarah landed her job with Jazz at the beginning of this year, the Millers were two of about 65 pilots on the roster at EVAS, which operates 10 Beech 1900Ds from bases in Gander and Halifax, N.S.
Anthony—who moved into the left seat last August, two months after he and Sarah were married—has accumulated about 3,500 hours total time. Both he and Sarah told Skies that the 50 hours they flew together on the B-1900D were among the quietest flights they’ve ever had.
“We didn’t talk a whole lot; it was pretty quiet in the cockpit,” laughed Sarah. “We had the same stories—there wasn’t really anything new to say!”
She added that she and her husband have two very different piloting styles. “Part of the reason I got into aviation is that I’m always worried about everything,” she explained. “But when I go flying, all my personal stuff goes out the window and I just enjoy it. I do what I have to do, and I love it. He’s more serious in the cockpit, and I’m more relaxed. But at home, it’s the opposite! That’s probably why we work so well together.”
With about 3,000 hours in her logbook, Sarah has moved on to her next challenge: right seat in the Bombardier Q400 for Jazz. When Skies caught up with her in March, she had started her training with CAE in Toronto, where she was the second youngest— and the only female—in her groundschool class.
For two people who were born in the same hospital, grew up only an hour apart, and were inseparable from the age of 14, Sarah’s new job represents a big change. “I’ll be commuting home to Gander,” she said. “It will be really different now. We went from spending all kinds of time together to not seeing each other for weeks. It’s not much fun.”
However, both she and Anthony are realistic about their chosen careers.
“Since we started flight school, our goal was Air Canada,” said Anthony. “It’s going to be different for the first while; commuting and not seeing each other. But, we’re still young and we want to give this career a shot and see how far we can go. We’re making sacrifices now to give ourselves a better life in the future. That’s what it comes down to.”
Sarah said she’ll always appreciate the time she spent flying with her husband. “I loved flying with Anthony because it was something very different. Not everyone gets to say they’ve done that. My parents are teachers, and they have taught together in the past, but they don’t sit in a 12-foot-square box with each other for hours on end!”
After eight years together, people around EVAS used to call the pair an “old married couple”—even though they haven’t even hit age 25.
In fact, there may be some truth to that.
“We know each other so well,” laughed Sarah. “I always knew when to stop talking during a flight because he wanted quiet time. I just looked over, and I knew. So, I would shut up!”