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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Collin Hughes!

Friday's Fabulous Flyer

Collin W. Hughes

Collin W. Hughes
Pilot and Flight Instructor. 
Living the dream!

Please meet my friend Collin Hughes. Two grand childhood dreams and he accomplished both! And despite all obstacles, he's made an incredible life and found a way to persevere no matter what. Despite the worst loss one could ever imagine, Collin is still flying strong. 


"I grew up on a farm in Southwest Iowa. My childhood was riddled with torment and self doubt due to ahhh, well lets just say a dysfunctional family. But even with the events that I let hold me back from my childhood I knew then that there were two things I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to be a cowboy and a pilot.

I remember one day my mother was attending a meeting at a building with a large yard. This structure had a small entryway that like a very small room that provided cover before going into the main door. I would use this entrance as my pretend bucking chute to play like I was a bull rider. I would jump out of this area and then jump around the yard as if I was riding a bull. After the completion of a successful ride I would run around the yard with my arms spread out playing as if I was flying an airplane to my next rodeo. 

I am very fortunate to have had both of my childhood dreams come true. I rode bulls for eighteen years. After the end of my bull riding days I announced rodeos. I learned though my announcing that I have great confidence in my public speaking abilities. I find it rather interesting that a task most people have a great fear of I am able to perform with ease. Now I fly for an airline. I have been able to do two things in life that many dream of, but few people are privileged to do.

I have let many things stand in my way to achieve much of what I would have liked to do in life. Yes, I was able to compete in the ranks of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. But I let my self doubts keep me from being as successful as I could have been.

I obtained my private pilot certificate in 1980 with the thought that I could use that to fly myself to rodeos. I did not fly much for the next several years. In 1999 I decided to take my love of flying and finally fulfill my dream of being a pilot. I earned my instrument rating in 1999, my Commercial Pilot Certificate and Certified Flight Instructor Certificate in the year 2000. My first two jobs as a flight instructor I managed the schools I worked for. Therefore, I was flying a desk more than I was an airplane. In 2005 I got a job flying a jet. The aircraft was a light jet that was operated on a charter certificate. This was my first time at the controls of a jet aircraft. At the age of forty-seven I felt like I had finally started to live my second childhood dream.

In 2008 I felt as if my dream of being a pilot had been shattered. The economy had taken a downturn and I lost my job. I was having a difficult time. My wife and I made the decision for me to go on antidepressants. At the time these types of medications were forbidden by the Federal Aviation Administration for pilots to use. I thought my days of flying were finished.

In my boredom I started a blog, Along with the blog I made a YouTube video in which I wore my pilot uniform and put a paper bag over my head. From under the bag I used a deep voice and announced, “I am the Prozac Pilot.” Looking back at this video I have come to the conclusion that I was VERY bored. 

In April of 2010 the FAA made an announcement that it would allow four different antidepressants to be used by pilots. I had hope of returning to the controls of a jet aircraft once again. Shortly after the FAA announcement CNN stumbled upon my blog and the video. I was then contacted by CNN asking me for an interview. I was unsure if I should go onto a major news network to talk about my situation. After much thought and deliberation I felt that if my story could help anyone it was worth any risk there may be for me coming forward. I consented to the interview. Since that interview I have been on Inside Edition (huge mistake) and one more interview on CNN.

There were two ways for me to once again have an FAA Medical Certificate. I could go through the process setup by the FAA and stay on the medications or I could work with my doctor and stop taking the pills altogether. I chose the latter.

I worked as an aircraft salesman for the next couple of years. In 2013 I landed a job once again flying a jet. This time though I am flying for an airline. I am living my dream once again. I believe that anyone can accomplish his or her dreams if they are willing to put forth the time and effort to do so. 
Mental Health Put to the Greatest Challenge

My mental health was put to the test in January 2015. My daughter who was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 lost her battle. The pain I felt was excruciating. However, I was able to deal with my grief in a manner that did not require medications. Do I feel pain? Yes. Have I slipped into a state of depression? No.

I have much more I plan to achieve during my lifetime. I enjoy writing. My blog has been a source to allow me to write to a certain extent. I look forward to be able to expand on this skill."
Collin, Thank you for sharing your story. Struggles and all, you are an inspiration to so many and have created awareness for a difficult subject for pilots with mental health. And then the ultimate challenge...I am so sorry for the loss of your daughter. I could never imagine that kind of pain. Thank you for sharing your story, and your incredible strength! Keep flying strong!
Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 


  1. Thank you for sharing your story, Collin. Not only is it inspirational, but I see how you have helped many with questions regarding a medical for those who are (currently) taking psychotropic medications. Many people assume that you have to be free, and have never taken any, of these treatments in order to fly, not or avoiding, getting the treatment needed. As a result of this, history has now told, that this can lead to a very lethal thing, not only for the pilot, but passengers as well.

    I am ever so sorry with the loss of your daughter to cancer. I feel your pain as I had a somewhat similar experience with an immediate family member.

    I would love to be in touch and please feel free to e-mail me anytime at jeremy (at) my website name above dot com.

    Karlene, thank you for sharing Collin with us! You always have the best Friday Flyers! Hope everyone is enjoying their Labor Day Weekend!

    1. Jeremy, Thank you so much for the comment. Yes, this helps those who fear the worst can live the best. Collin is amazing and in the middle of an upgrade now, so busy too. But soon he will flying as a captain.

  2. I think a number of organizations could stand to evolve their official attitudes toward antidepressants and other pharmaceuticals.

    It's true that some antidepressants are heavily sedating, and some MDs are prescribing sedating antipsychotics as antidepressants/antianxiety agents.

    I'm looking at you, trazodone and quetiapine - very valuable in the right context, but neither in a cockpit nor on a tennis court.

    But there's a raft of other agents that are not sedating - one, even, is an intensifier of amphetamines.

    We ban those agents at our collective peril.

    If the goal is to weed out suicidal (read:murderous) pilots, banning the drugs they take to get better drives them underground and gives them a grievance they can use to justify whatever acts we'll now never see coming.

    I've addressed the danger of sedatives in the cockpit.

    So what other reasons are left?

    Spite? "My buddy/BFF/spouse took meds and couldn't fly. So nobody else can either."

    I feel you. At 55, I can tell you a few in-my-day stories too.

    Stigma? "If we let pilots take meds, people will think we have crazies flying our planes."

    Would you ever say: "If we let pilots get casts, everyone will know they sometimes break their legs. And if they take a short course of antibiotics for an infection, people will think our planes are full of germs."

    Same thing with antidepressants.

    If anyone we work with has a pain in the neurotransmitters, that corresponding injury to the brain (even if it's just a misrouting) needs treatment.

    Not further injury.

    1. Thank you for the comment Mary. Yes, there are many drugs we cannot fly with that impair and sedate. As it should be. I always asked about Prozac, if it was better to fly with someone taking it, or some who needed it.
      Collin is a success case, and good to see. I see many changes in fitness to fly in the future... hopefully based on sound science and in the best interest of all.

  3. Thank you everyone for your kind comments. But I am just a guy who was bored and put a paperbag over my head to make a video. I emphasize the bored part. It is great though that I have been able to use the attention I have received to help others. I hope I can continue to help in other ways.

    1. I loved the bored part and the bag. There have been so many bored behaviors I've seen, but this was the best. And... humor is the essence of life. So, you're good! Thank you so much for sharing your inspirational story!!


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