Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I was 12 years old, my father took my flying to Anchorage, Alaska. I’ll never forget being mesmerized by the cockpit with all the buttons and lights, and in awe of the mountains as we flew by on approach. I decided right then I had to do whatever it took to become a pilot. The best chance to earn a pilot slot was from the US Air Force Academy, but it is extremely difficult to be accepted – you cannot just apply, you must also be appointed by a senator or congressman. I attended a military preparatory high school, played baseball, achieved Eagle Scout, joined JROTC and became the group Commander, created and commanded an Armed Drill Team, and graduated as the Salutatorian all to in hopes of receiving my AF Academy nomination. At the AF Academy I competed to earn my pilot “slot” by becoming a soaring instructor pilot and graduating with honors. During my Active Duty years, I flew the massive C-17 Globemaster III all over the world flying various missions, to include flying the VPOTUS into Iraq and performing in several airshows. I was deployed to Kuwait, Turkey, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, and Oman flying daily missions in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, during which I obtained 4 combat Air Medals. I went on to become an instructor pilot at Columbus AFB, MS and loved teaching others to fly everything from the basics like how to land, to advanced aerobatics and formation flying. I separated from Active Duty and joined the TN Air National Guard where I went back to flying the C-17 to continue my service. I applied for the major airlines and was hired by Delta in 2015. I flew internationally out of NYC to places like Amsterdam, London, Paris, Moscow, Sao Paulo, etc. until I discovered the small town of Hermosa Beach, CA. I fell in love with the town and the vibe of the beach and people. I left international flying and switched to domestic flying based out of LAX and moved to Hermosa. Since moving here I’ve met amazing friends and found my new love of beach volleyball. The single scene has been difficult, but I finally feel like I have enough space in my life to finally meet that special someone. Then randomly, I was asked to audition for a new show called ‘Flirty Dancing’ on FOX. I have no dance experience or never thought of being on national TV… however I’m always open to new experiences and pushing out of my comfort zone. Perhaps it will lead to the greatest love story ever?
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started doing this?
This experience with Flirty Dancing has been incredible. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I first applied and auditioned. I’m just a regular guy with no dance experience, sharing the same frustrations as everyone with the modern dating world. I went from swiping left and right on my phone to swiping left and right on the dance floor! You meet with a choreographer for a few days and learn a difficult dance routine, then you go on your blind date to perform the dance with your partner. You never speak or even know their name before or after the dance! I do believe that you can make a connection without words, however, so this was a great opportunity to test that belief.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Modern dating is so difficult because we have too many options. In Aziz Ansari’s book “Modern Romance”, he uses an analogy of if you are presented too many free samples of something, then you get frustrated and walk away without purchasing any because you don’t know if you are getting the best one for you. Whereas if you just try a few samples, you’re comfortable with your purchase of your favorite. We live in a world today with all of the dating apps, websites, cities, social media, etc. that we are overloaded with options and afraid to commit. My advice is to not be overwhelmed and burn out, but to just be selective, filter out those you don’t genuinely have a connection with or are attracted to, and the ones you are – give honest shot to. Be open to trying new things with those people and try and shut off the noise from the rest of the world or dating scene. With pilots in particular, even if you are single and have no commitments other than your career, you must build space in your life to meet that particular person. If you are flying extra trips to make that extra moolah, you may be missing out on finding that special someone. Enjoy the quality of life and in your days off – put yourself out there.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My best friend and roommate Mike have really helped me grow this past year. He is someone who actively listened, empathized, and tried to understand where I was coming from in each frustration or story. He then challenges me by asking why, or what if, or how about questions that help me view things from another perspective. He really has helped me analyze myself, dig deep and address issues I didn’t know existed, and truly grow as a person. It’s a work in progress but I feel more comfortable and happier with who I am today more than I ever have, and I have a lot of thanks to give to this guy for that.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Hopefully me achieving my lifelong dream of becoming a pilot will motivate young men and women who aspire to become such. In addition, hopefully the show makes hopeless romantics realize there’s still hope – and be motivated to put themselves out there to try and meet people in different ways.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
No real-life lesson quote – but certainly a life lesson I am trying to live by every day. That is to be mindful of everything you are doing, and to live in the present. I used to live out my days only looking into the future and let them pass me right by. There’s no better time than the present – so enjoy it!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
IG – JasonJWard10 FB – JasonJWard1 Twitter – JasonJWard1