Derek Pegram was always willing to help others out during his time as a student at Emerald Ridge High School, and in his endeavors as an aviation student.
When the time came for him to begin looking for his first job in aviation, his attitude of paying it forward paid off when he was offered the job of a lifetime to kickstart his career.
Pegram, now 20, originally got his inspiration to become a pilot while a student at ER, and from there he hopped over to Green River Community College to enroll in its aviation program. He did his flight training through a local fixed based operator to get the required 250 hours to become a commercial pilot. As soon as Pegram finished the requirements to get his commercial pilot license, he headed to the Midwest.
The class of 2013 alum is working for Western Edge Aviation, surveying the oil pipeline in North Dakota, looking for leaks.
“The main thing is oil leaks,” Pegram said. “You’re also looking for things that can cause oil leaks so you have possible construction going on near the pipeline or a farmer that’s drilling down into the ground because he wants to put up fence posts. It’s really anything that can be considered a hazard to the pipeline and cause a possible leak.”
Landing the job meant a lot of pilot training and some testing on the pipeline itself for the Puyallup native.
According to Pegram, in order to be hired on by one of the regional airlines, you have to have at least a minimum of 1,500 hours of flight time. Like most amateur pilots, Pegram was having a hard time filling the gap from the 250 hours minimum of flight time to get a commercial license to the 1,500-hour requirement by most airlines.
“This pipeline job was just an extremely rare opportunity. If you get a job like this, you have to know somebody in the company,” Pegram said. “My past instructor remembered me, and he gave me a call and I finished up my commercial soon after, so he got me the job.”
Pegram’s flight instructor, Tyler Weaver, who also is now living and working in North Dakota, was the key to Pegram starting his aviation career on a high note. When Weaver first met Pegram, he had already exceed the 40-hour minimum to get his private pilot’s license.
“The first time, he got everything,” Weaver said. “He has really good rudder skills and got everything right away. Most other people get their license and it takes them anywhere from 60 or 80 hours to get it. He was just right on the money each time.”
The goal for the new resident of Dickinson, North Dakota is to rack up a bunch of hours of flight time, and instead of having to pay to acquire those hours, he is getting paid.
“It’s quite a bit of change,” Pegram said. “I’m still getting used to it, but it’s not anything too crazy. It’s very similar based on the restaurants and the food, it’s very much the same. The biggest difference is the climate and the kind of lifestyle.”
Weaver says that Pegram’s willingness to help others out has allowed him to fit right in to the notorious Midwest mentality.
“He’s a very social guy,” Weaver said. “He’s always there to help other people, that’s why I wanted to help him because I saw him helping everybody else out. He really was a role model for his peers at Emerald Ridge. I wanted to help him out by getting him a good job, and a good start in aviation.”