Captain Fernando Contreras, 28, came to the United States when he was a teenager, but even since then, he’s been interested in aviation and fitness. Watching his father fly wide-body jets fueled his passion for flying, while at home his mother passed on her knowledge of eating healthy.
Now a Captain based out of Miami International Airport flying the Embraer 140/45, Fernando says he’s living the dream. Read more below about how he got into flying, and how he is helping to improve pilots’ quality of life through fitness and health with his brand FITAVIATORSCLUB.
When did you get bit by the flying bug?
From as early as I can remember, I knew I wanted to be a pilot just like my dad. He would always tell me stories about the art of flying, the big cities he would layover in, the training to become a pilot, the continuous learning in aviation, and how important it is to value family and friends when on the road and at home.
The most impactful memory I have of being fascinated with flying was when I was 8 years old. My dad was Captain on the Boeing 727 at the time, and took me on to the flight deck with him for the flight.
I clearly remember that I wanted to know what each button was for, and what each gauge displayed. All that made me passionate to become an aviator like him one day. I still can’t believe I do what I always dreamed of, and getting to share it with him.
How did you earn your flight hours to become a First Officer?
I became a Flight Instructor at CTI in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and had an amazing experience. Not only did it keep you on your toes all the time, it also offered a dynamic day-to-day experience.
I enjoy teaching others and adapting to their style of learning. It gives me a challenge because I want to see people succeed and see them be proud and confident of themselves.
What is your favorite part of being a pilot?
My favorite part of flying is that we get to transport people not just from point A to point B, but also transport people with dreams to become pilots in the future, to reunite families, to those seeking a new future somewhere else, those who may be vacationing for the first time, those riding an airplane for the first time, and the list goes on and on.
Getting to accomplish this through skill, precision, decision making and situational awareness is my favorite part about flying.
Why did you choose Envoy?
I chose Envoy for a few reasons; my instructors also fly for Envoy and they have had a major impact in my life. Their opinion and guidance in choosing the right regional led me to go with Envoy.
Also, the Flow to American Airlines was an offer I could not pass up!
What advice do you have for a new pilot starting their regional career?
The same advice my mentors gave me is the same advice I give those who have reached out to me – think about what it is you truly want in your aviation career. Envoy offers everything I want and need to enjoy my experience at a regional airline, and also for my future to get me to American Airlines.
Chart a path for health
Life on the road can be tough, especially on your health, can you explain the steps, routines, decisions you make in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle given the unsure nature of life on the road?
The key is to find some sort of a routine in a non-routine environment. Meaning your daily habits have to be true to your fitness goals.
Planning is of essence to completing those daily habits. So, I plan all my meals and snacks for my trips, the time when to exercise on my layovers, and leave room to enjoy the rest of things in life besides eating clean and exercising.
One good tip for maintaining an exercise routine on the road is to change into your workout clothes as soon as you get to your room. The hard part is to get started, and once you do, you’re on the path to a healthier lifestyle every day.
Why is health and fitness important to you?
Health and fitness have always been a major part of my life. Being fit started as a goal that eventually turned into a lifestyle.
Since I was a kid, I’ve been exercising because it’s something I saw my dad do and I enjoyed doing it too. My nutrition habits, growing up, have always been healthy because my mom would teach me about it and how to cook.
What advice do you have pilots, and everyone else, about maintaining a healthy diet and exercise schedule?
There are several key factors to obtaining a healthy balanced lifestyle on the road – it all starts with the mindset. Having a compelling vision of your goals allow you to find a routine in a non-routine environment, because your choices are derived from what you are trying to accomplish.
It’s so important that you set a realistic short-term and long-term goal because progression is the real motivation. Those goals have to have that much significance to you that you are willing to prioritize daily habits toward them.
It’s crucial to have a balanced lifestyle and enjoy the different foods, and events at home and layovers. It’s what makes this lifestyle more enjoyable and not feel like being healthy is something you have to do.
What are your go-to meals and exercises on the road?
My go to snacks on the road are: avocados, pistachios, almonds, protein bars, raw vegetables with hummus, and sometimes a cheese, turkey, and salami sandwich (my favorite since I was a kid).
My go to exercises on the road are: full body calisthenic exercises (with body weight), 20 minutes of high intensity interval cardio training, steady-state cardio like running, if the layover has somewhere fun to run by, and I always focus on strengthening my core.