MinnEcon@Work: Pilot Trainer / Priest

Paul Kolisch holds down two jobs where trust and faith are vital.

He’s supervisor of flight operations training at Mesaba Airlines. He’s also an Anglican priest. Both vocations are feeling the effects of this recession in different ways.

We sat with Kolisch recently at Mesaba’s flight simulator operations and talked about what it takes to be a commercial pilot and the challenges the recession’s brought to the airline business.

Mesaba became part of Delta Airlines last year after Delta bought Northwest Airlines. Kolisch says Mesaba is losing pilots as Delta decreases the size of the regional carrier’s fleet.

While he doesn’t expect his responsibilities at Mesaba to change, “I do worry about some junior pilots who may be furloughed. I would not recommend flying for people looking for secure, good wages.”

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A source in MPR’s Public Insight Network, Kolisch, 63, says his love of flight started as a kid, staring at airplanes in the sky. He’s been in aviation for more than 30 years with a stint as a science teacher.

The passion for his religion began as an eight-year-old boy singing in the church choir. Music still stirs him.

The associate rector of St. Dunstan’s Anglican Church in St. Louis Park, “I say Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, visit the sick, people in nursing homes, and other such priestly activities.” He’d been a layman in the Anglican Church for years before being ordained in 2007.

“As a priest in the Anglican Church, I see more people joining our congregation…The recession has hurt some of our members in terms of employment issues. Nonetheless, the parish is financially healthy, and we have enjoyed continued growth as new people find us,” he says.

Whatever happens in the airline business, Kolisch says he’s proud of Mesaba’s focus on safety and training. “It’s a really good place to do this right.”

Along with the technical instruction new pilots receive, Kolisch often uses an analogy to make sure his charges understand their responsibilities to passengers. He tells them: “You’re a brain surgeon and they’re on the operating table.”

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MinnEcon@Work is an occasional series featuring Minnesotans in MPR’s Public Insight Network with cool jobs and interesting vantage points on the economy.

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