Planned his career as a pilot after his first lesson
By Ashourina Slewo
After nearly 30 years, the novelty of being a commercial airline pilot has yet to wear off for George Gorial, 54, captain at JetBlue Airlines. Gorial has been at JetBlue for 10 years, where he upgraded to captain after only three years at the airline. Before working for JetBlue, Gorial worked as a charter pilot out of Detroit City Airport for five years and then for 12 years, worked at Skyway Airlines, where he was also a captain.
Gorial didn’t always set out to be a pilot, in fact, Gorial had wanted to end up in the medical field and eventually become a doctor. After some encouragement from billboards near his family’s business, which was located near the Detroit City Airport, Gorial decided to take a flying lesson.
“I always watched the airplanes flying overhead when I worked at my family’s business near Detroit City Airport and would see the signs ‘Learn to fly’,” said Gorial. “I took one flying lesson and when I was in that airplane, it was just like “wow, I could really do this,” when we took off in that airplane, I thought this is it. That was it for me, I knew I wanted to be a pilot.”
Unsurprised, Gorial found that he had very little support when he decided to abandon his choice to pursue a career in the medical field to become a pilot. “Nobody believed that I could do it,” Gorial said. “My mom would always say ‘you could have been a doctor, what are you doing,’ but I wanted to be a pilot. Honestly, though, the only person that believed in me was my mom, everybody else thought I was crazy. Some of the people closest to me didn’t think I could actually do it, but it didn’t matter to me what they thought I could or couldn’t do.”
Shortly after receiving his private pilot license, Gorial decided to also obtain his certification for private and instrument training. One year after receiving his certification, Gorial became a simulator instructor at Oakland Community College and at a flight school in Detroit City Airport. It was during his time as an instructor that the reality of his career choice dawned on him.
“When I started teaching, I became an instructor at Oakland Community College to pay for my two years of college there, I looked and thought to myself, ‘this is my job now, this is what I am going to do’,” Gorial said.
In his 28 years as a pilot, Gorial’s most memorable moment at work is not what one would expect. Gorial states that nothing could compare to surprising his mother on a flight, not even when his plane was struck by lightning.
On a short flight from Wisconsin to Detroit, Gorial was able to surprise his mother, who had never been on an airplane being flown by her son. Even as she sat on the plane, waiting for take-off, Gorial’s mother had no idea who the captain was until it was announced by the flight attendants.
“When she heard the announcement over the PA, she was so surprised,” said Gorial. “She was telling everybody ‘that’s my son.’” She loved being able to say I was her son. It was so surreal to her.”
During his career, Gorial has been able to achieve everything that he had set out to do, as well as things he never dreamed of doing; from achieving his career goal of becoming a commercial airline pilot to sharing his successes with his mother, who cheered him on from his very first flight lesson, Gorial hopes to continue flying larger aircrafts across great distances.
“It is surreal and the novelty of it all never wears out,” said Gorial.