Persistence paid off for Les Abend his first year at Purdue. He attended the University even though he had not been admitted into the flight program. “After numerous trips riding my bike from Cary Quad to visit the department head during my first semester, I was accepted. I never looked back,” he says.
The same could be said of his nearly 40-year aviation career. After working as a flight instructor, charter pilot, commuter airline pilot, a freight carrier first officer, and as a flight engineer for a now-defunct airline, he landed his dream job with American Airlines, where he has been flying as a B-777 captain for the last seven years. When he is not flying for his employer, he is writing or talking about aviation. He is a contributing editor for Flying Magazine, which includes a regular column titled, “Jumpseat,” and author of the novel “Paper Wings.” He also serves as an aviation analyst for CNN.
Abend hopes to inspire future aviation professionals, through his writing or educational venues, as he contemplates a second career. He had three great role models, he says, in Purdue aviation professors Charlie Holleman, Tom Carney and Larry Gross. “They are the epitome of givers,” he says. “Without them, the program would have been just another aviation school.”
Abend and his wife, Carol, live in New Milford, Connecticut.