Police Officer to Airline Pilot – the Career Path of Fred Mattfeld

Paula Williams: Welcome to APG Radio Episode 17.  I’m Paula Williams. Today, I talk with one of APG’s mentors.  Our mentors are experienced airline captains who really know what it’s like to work in the industry.  Fred Mattfeld is one of our mentors, and he’s got a really fascinating background because he didn’t start as an airline pilot right out of high school or college. In fact, he had already retired as a police officer before he became an airline pilot!   So, he’s really helpful to a lot of our students who have unusual concerns.


Police Officer to Airline Captain - The Career Path of Fred MattfeldPaula Williams: Cool, so, yeah, Fred, I know there’s a really interesting story about kind of where you came from. And how this came together, as far as your career path getting into the aviation industry. Could you kind of take us back to Fred at whatever age it was that you decided to get into aviation and.

Fred Mattfeld: You know, I always had a dream or fantasy about flying. Cuz I always lived close to airports because I lived on a military base my whole life. And we were always by one of the mandatory airfields. My dad was a paratrooper, and so we got to see planes up close.

And then I went in the army at 17 during the Vietnam era, and I got a lot of hands on experience with flying. And so it really, really fed my desire to aviation. And then when I got out of the army, I actually became a police officer in southern California with one of the major cities down there.

I would always go by the airports, I worked close to them. And then I started doing where I could fly on the police helicopters, and it was just something that was really exciting to me. And I always had my doubts whether I could actually be a pilot. So, one day I always wanted to, and then one day I just drove into a flight school, walked in.

And I actually walked up the stairs, I turned around because I just got too nervous, I was going to leave, then I bumped into an instructor. I took my first lesson that day, and I just never stopped.

Paula Williams: Wow.

Fred Mattfeld: My initial goal was actually to apply to the police department, but then I had to retire.

So by the time I retired, I had my ATP license, and I could start flying commercially.

Paula Williams: So this is a-

Fred Mattfeld: So that was a start.

Paula Williams: Right, so this is a second career for you after that law enforcement experience and you loved it as a passenger.

Which is better, being a passenger or being a pilot?

Fred Mattfeld: Well at this point of my career, I find both are very satisfying. Knowing I’m flying, I really enjoy it, it’s an office with a view.

Paula Williams: Right.

Fred Mattfeld: You get to see everything, you know what’s going on.

And there’s just a real thrill, especially with that takeoff and that landing. And it’s just something that you never really outgrow. I mean you’ll be sitting by an airport, and here you are, you got 20,000 hours of flight time and you’re still watching planes take off and land.

It’s just something that just never goes away, but then again when I’m sitting in back, I can lean the seat back, watch a movie, go to sleep. So I enjoy that as well, so for me, they’re I really enjoy doing both. When I’m working, I love being the pilot.

But when I’m off, I love riding the back, cuz usually it means we’re going some place fun. Which is something that the airline industry allows us to do, is get to see the world for little or no cost. Right,

Paula Williams: That’s fantastic, I love seeing people, and especially me I know I do when I go by an airport, you can’t keep the grin off your face because of the airplanes taking off and landing.

And I think it just hits some people that way.

Fred Mattfeld: Well it’s just like right now planes are taking off and landing because I’m close to the airport. And I still look up every time I hear or see one going by. So it’s just it’s real exciting for me, but you know on a side note for me the opportunities in the aviation industry have never been as great as they are now.

And if you’re a young person in your 20s or even 30s, I mean, the opportunities that are going to be afforded you are just amazing. But I was 42 before I took my very first flight lesson. And so age really does not have to be an obstacle, if you’re in your 40s or 50s, you can still achieve that dream to get into the airline industry.

If you’re older, you won’t have the same opportunities. But the fulfillment and the joy and the rewards that you receive just are matched by none, it’s just amazing.