Kevin Rice planned to become a doctor until a $49 Groupon for a one-hour private flight changed his career trajectory – and life – forever.


When Kevin was 14 years old, his dad surprised him with a ticket to fly on a Cessna 172 as a reward for earning good grades in school. From the minute the plane landed back in his hometown of Orlando, Florida, Kevin was hooked. He told his dad that his plans to attend medical school were off the table, and he instead wanted to pursue a career in aviation. Recognizing his son’s newfound passion, his dad promised to support Kevin’s dream if he got a job to help pay for flying lessons.


Kevin accepted the challenge but soon found that employers were reluctant to hire a young teenager. He went to Atlantic Aviation at the Orlando International Airport and offered to wash planes in exchange for flight hours. In just a few years, he accumulated 1,000 flight hours and gained on-the-ground experience towing and parking planes.


Now 23, Kevin is a SpeedBird First – Officer and co-founder of Orlando Pilots, a Facebook group of nearly 2,000 pilots and aspiring aviators, to which he dedicates time cultivating Central Florida’s pipeline of aviation enthusiasts.


Here, Kevin shares insight on what it means to be a SpeedBird pilot.


Why did you decide to join SpeedBird?

When I first met Chris Bull, SpeedBird’s CEO, I was immediately struck by his down-to-earth nature and how open he was about sharing his vision for the company. I had a rare and exciting opportunity to start my career as a pilot and also help grow the company and shape its culture.


Soon after joining SpeedBird, I found that our pilots are decision-makers. We assist in making lists of equipment needed for our fleet and advise our sales team on the loads or number of passengers our airplanes can handle for various flights. Even in my first year, I was encouraged to provide feedback on what I liked best about our policies and procedures and share ideas for things we could do differently.


Our culture is one in which all team members are valued – whether you’re a pilot, a member of the flight crew or part of the sales and management teams – and we work together and respect each person’s contribution to the company.


What do you like most about flying for SpeedBird?

Working as a SpeedBird pilot means you have flexibility and camaraderie in your professional life. Our captains and first officers genuinely enjoy working together, which is important when we’re sitting next to each other through eight-hour flights. I consider my captain a close friend.


Also, I find the schedule to be very balanced and manageable. Our pilots work an “eight days on, six days off” schedule. And because SpeedBird is strategically headquartered near Orlando’s international airport, our pilots can conveniently fly home or travel during their days off work. As we speak, I’m skiing in Utah for a few days before I head back to Florida.


Another rewarding aspect of flying for SpeedBird is we’re involved in all aspects of flying a plane such as doing the weight and balance calculations, as well as handling flight planning and verifying identifications. We’re also heavily involved in building client relationships. Positive feedback is shared when a pilot goes above and beyond to provide outstanding service. Where there’s an opportunity for improvement, the team provides constructive feedback to support you in your growth and development. Those experiences are invaluable in building a career as a pilot.


What advice would you give to a pilot who is interested in joining SpeedBird?

SpeedBird is dedicated to safety and delivering incomparable customer service, and our pilots share those values. Our clients come to us for a luxury, private charter experience tailored to meet their personal needs. Developing authentic rapport with clients and solving their problems – before they even know about them – is critical.


For example, when air traffic control informed us of a three-hour delay due to inclement weather, we negotiated to fill the spot of another flight that had been canceled so we could take off immediately. Because I’ve built rapport with air traffic control, we were able to work together to get the client to their destination safely, without delay.


My advice for pilots is to come to SpeedBird with an open mind and a commitment to building relationships, both internally and externally. SpeedBird looks for pilots who are eager to learn, are curious and ask questions about the business, and are enthusiastic about exchanging ideas. SpeedBird is a rapidly growing company, and it’s an exciting time to be a part of its expansion.

SpeedBird is currently hiring, seeking qualified captains, first officers and many other aviation professionals as the company pursues nationwide expansion. Pilots and other experienced aviation industry professionals are invited to learn more about career opportunities and first-class benefits at www.flyspeedbird.com/careers.