I Get Paid For This…
Fly before you buy. Textron demonstration pilot Mindy Lindheim shows off Cessna and Beechcraft aircraft to prospective customers. Interview by Yayeri van Baarsen
How did you get into flying?
Actually I planned to get into aerospace medicine. However, the more I read about aerospace, the more interested in flying I became. No-one in my family flies but talking a neighbour, an airline pilot for Delta, really sparked my passion for aviation, so I went to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Tell us about your job?
I’m the regional sales director for Textron Aviation, selling brand new Cessna (the 172, 182, 206 and Caravan) and Beechcraft (Bonanza and Baron) aircraft. My job includes going to airshows, flying the aircraft to customers and doing demonstration flights, and flying the aircraft together with someone who’s interested in purchasing it. No day is the same and I get to interact with many people. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, my sales territory includes Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi – I fly three to four times a week.
These demo flights are all about fun and showing the aircraft’s best qualities. With the Baron, for example, we show its speed, whereas with the 206, we focus on the short take-off and landing distances. We always talk about how a customer plans to use the aircraft and if it’s feasible, that’s what we’ll show them. If they’ll mainly use it to visit their grandchildren one state away, for example, we’ll make that trip together and look at the performance along the way.
In other cases, we have a basic flight profile. However, I always tailor this to the customer. With inexperienced pilots, I won’t go into detail about the avionics, I’ll focus on the aircraft’s easy handling qualities. Same goes for the flying itself. The customer sits in the left seat and my coaching depends on their experience. With a student pilot, I might do the take-off and landing, whereas if someone has lots of experience, I just guide them through the aircraft’s features.
A demo pilot needs to be flexible, personal and outgoing. You can be the world’s greatest pilot but if you’re a super shy person, you wouldn’t be right for this job. It’s all about communication. The best part of my job is handing over the keys to the customer after a sale. They’re always so excited!
What training did you have?
I have a single and multi-engine CPL and I’m a certified flight instructor. Textron Aviation offers internal training to become a demo pilot. You start by getting to know the aircraft, so you can answer any customer questions. Then you get comfortable with flying it in the right seat. Finally you do mock demos, with your colleagues pretending to be prospective customers. I first became a demo pilot on the 182 and then added the other aircraft.
What’s been your favourite flight?
Flying home the CubCrafters Sport Cub, a little two-seat tailwheel aircraft my husband and I bought in April. It was just a short flight, as our home is only a few airports away from where we bought it, but it was the best. After selling aircraft for so many years, it’s awesome to finally be an aircraft owner myself!
And your favourite airfield?
Our backyard! My husband is an air traffic controller working towards getting his pilot licence, and we live in a hangar community south of Atlanta. We moved there in September 2019 and love it. Everyone here is an aircraft owner and the runway, a grass strip, is literally our backyard.
Do you get to fly much outside of work?
All the time! We regularly go for a spin in the evening. Leisure flying is completely different from flying for work. I don’t need a customer or reason, I can just take our Cub up when I want.
What’s the most valuable career advice you’ve had?
Don’t be afraid to move away for the right job. I’m from Florida and had to move to Chicago for my first position. If I’d stayed in my hometown I’d have been limited for a career in aviation.
Mindy’s job includes demonstrating Cessna and Beechcraft aircraft to potential customers.
Started current job: May 2016
Now flying: Cessna 172, Cessna 182, Cessna 206, Beechcraft Baron, Beechcraft Bonanza CubCrafters Sport Cub
Favourite aircraft: CubCrafters Sport Cub. “It’s my own plane so it’s definitely my favourite!”
Hours at job start: Approx. 300
Hours now: Approx. 1,200