For some, being able to fly around the world is a dream come true. For Duncan John MacDonald, that dream is a reality. Duncan John MacDonald is a commercial pilot living in Dallas, Texas, and has had a passion for planes his entire life. MacDonald attended the College of Aviation and Aeronautical Science at LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas, receiving his B.S. in Aviation Studies—one of the top ranked aviation programs in the country. Upon graduation, Duncan continued his studies at VT AAA Flight School in New Braunfels, Texas. For the last decade, Duncan John MacDonald has been working as a commercial pilot, and has been lucky enough to see some of the most beautiful places that this world has to offer.

What do you love most about the industry you are in?

I have been blessed to be able to see dozens of unique and beautiful places across our globe, and it is this aspect of being a commercial pilot that I love the most. From Paris to Barcelona to Japan, the unique diversity of the cultures I am able to experience has actually showcased to me how much we are similar to one another as opposed to different. It has allowed me to expand my palette, my tastes, and my perspectives. This aspect of flight has only strengthened my love for flight and has bettered my personal life as a result. 

What does a typical day consist of for you?

As a commercial pilot, every day is different. Some days, you are flying very long distances, staying overnight in countries overseas, and other days, you are doing a 3-hour local flight and are back home in time for dinner. A part of the thrill of being a commercial pilot is being kept on your toes, never really knowing what the upcoming weeks or months are going to look like. In addition to flying, there is a lot of preparation work that needs to be done before taking off, including weather assessments, filing flight plans, and performing pre-flight checks on the aircraft. At the end of the day, my job is concerned with the safety and comfort of our passengers, and we work hard before, during and after the flight to ensure we meet the highest possible standard.

What keeps you motivated?

Being a commercial pilot means that I am able to share in the excitement of my passengers about travelling and seeing places in the world that they’ve never seen. I am motivated by the opportunities I am able to provide our passengers

How do you motivate others?

Encouragement. We all have the ability to be great, all it takes is a belief in yourself and your abilities to go that extra mile. I motivate others by encouraging them to be better than they were the day before, and am very careful not to compare my colleagues and employees to other people—this is a quick way to alienate someone from their work!

What traits do you possess that makes a successful leader?

Being able to stay positive in a negative situation is the superpower of any successful leader. Great leaders know that they won’t have a happy and motivated team unless they themselves exhibit a positive attitude. This can easily be achieved by remaining positive when things go wrong, like a cancelled flight, unpredictable weather patterns, or when a flight is grounded. It is common knowledge that when you stress out or allow a situation to fluster you, your body is flooded with cortisol (the stress hormone), which makes it even more difficult to make clear-headed decisions.

What suggestions do you have for someone starting in your industry?

Hard work, hard work, and hard work. There is a very clear difference between those who succeed and those who fail, and it is the amount of hard work and quantitative hours you put into any goal or endeavour. Once the exams have been passed, the hours have been logged, you need to be in love with your craft to be able to keep up with industry standards. In this vein, you never want to stop learning, and that is where the hard work comes in.

What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?

This is a quote from the Scottish novelist and playwright responsible for Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie: “The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.” This quote resonated with me for reasons beyond its association with flying, but rather for its message to go for what you want with an unrelenting gusto. 

What’s one piece of advice you would give to others?

Don’t force anything, allow it to happen at its own pace. As a commercial pilot, I know the importance of being patient when it comes to achieving your goals. Throughout my training, log hours, and practical exams, it was easy to get impatient with the process, but if you’re deadest on the goal, you will miss the beauty of the journey itself.

Outside of work, what defines you as a person?

When your livelihood is so closely related to your love and passion, it is hard to separate the two. For this reason, I am deeply in love with travel, and this sense of curiosity and exploration translate into other areas of my life. Some of the places that I have lucky enough to visit and spend time in are Paris, San Francisco, and Budapest. Aside from travel, I am an avid golf player, and love catching up on football in my downtime.

What trends in your industry excite you?

Several companies are on the brink of carrying commercial passengers at twice the speed of sound once again. This type of flight would be able to take you from the United States to Tokyo in as little as 5 hours. Supersonic commercial flight hasn’t occurred since the iconic Concorde in 2003. NASA and Lockheed Martin are trying to find ways to create a ‘quiet sonic boom’, so the idea of flying on an aircraft that has Mach 2 speeds may only be a few years away.