News | Thinking Out of the Box: USC Policy and Planning Alumna Erica Fine Soars to New Heights

Stop the Video



by By: Adylbek Abdykalikov, USC, IPPAM 2020

Erica Fine graduated from the University of Southern California in 2015, earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Policy, Planning and Development with a focus in Sustainable Planning. After just a year from graduation she has become a certified pilot and currently works in one of the largest regional air carriers in the nation. Fine shared with METRANS her experience of such an exciting transformation.

After graduating from USC, Fine attended flight school in Long Beach. “The path I took started with getting the Private Pilot License, then multi-engine, Instrument, Commercial-multi and Commercial-single engine.” She shared.  “Then the school sent us to North Las Vegas to Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) school. There are three CFI certificates you can get; CFI single-engine, CFI multi-engine, and CFI instrument. The last one allows a CFI to teach instrument training. For me, the time I spent in full-time flight school start to finish was 11 months.”  

Fine is currently an employee of Envoy Air, a regional airline of American Airlines under the American Eagle brand. As a short-term goal, she sees herself as a CFI (to be a CFI she needs to finish 1,500 flight hours; Fine is at 1,100 now). After that, she will start training for one of Envoy’s jets. Her long-term goal is even more ambitious – to be an American Airlines Captain.

Answering the question about how USC prepared her for a career in transportation, Fine notes that the classes she had in Sustainable Planning in Price set the tone for transportation industry and generally how it works on the inside. “Having an idea of this has helped me when it comes to airport operations and the way the National Airspace System works. Planning plays a part in all of it, including the flight school I instruct for and how they operate their aircraft on the ramp of the airport,” she added.

There is no doubt that nowadays the civil aviation industry is rapidly developing all over the world. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, in 2017 a new record 4.1 billion passengers were carried by the aviation industry on scheduled services. Both the passenger and cargo traffic increase every year. Fine sees the growth of the US airlines as very exciting. “Multiple airlines have orders of new aircraft on the books to be delivered for this year through at least 2020,” she points out. “Not only is this good for me as a pilot but also for the customers; more planes mean more pilots, which means increased number of flights all over the country.”

Having gone through such an exciting experience, Fine has a piece of advice for current students and graduates – that networking and interacting with people is as important as studies and grades. “Drop the Netflix and explore the city. There are so many important things you can and should learn about people not taught in classes. Regardless of what your job will be, study human behavior in preparation for ‘the real world’; you won’t regret it”, inspires Fine.

Her real life example sends one more message for students which can be really helpful: “Just because your major is in one thing doesn’t mean your job has to be what everyone else in your major is doing. Think outside the box.”

About the author:

Adylbek Abdykalikov is a graduate student of International Public Policy and Management Program at USC Price. He has a working experience in different positions at the Ministries of Transport and Communication and Investment and Development of Kazakhstan. He was in charge of Transportation and Civil Aviation policy development and implementation.