In the sixth of a nine-part Q&A series, Aloha Air Cargo Captain Dustin Case answers questions about his life, career, and a nomination for this year’s awards.
Dustin Case always wanted to be a pilot. He joined Aloha Air Cargo in 2017 and works as a 737 Captain and a Line and Simulator Check Airman and Instructor. His attention to detail and drive to do better led to his Safety Award nomination.
Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?
Aloha, my name is Dustin Case. I am originally from the moku o Hawaiʻi (“The Big Island”). I am the youngest of three children and spent my entire childhood here in Hawaiʻi. I graduated high school from Kamehameha Schools in 2007 and later received a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle University in Prescott, Arizona, in 2010. From a young age, I wanted to be a pilot, and following high school made it my ultimate goal.
Tell me about your career, your current position, and what led you to it.
I began my career back home in Hawaiʻi flying cargo throughout the islands, operating various aircraft ranging from a Cessna Caravan and later upgrading to captain and flying the Shorts SD-360. After four-and-a-half years of interisland flying, I decided to venture out and gain more experience. I was offered a position with Compass Airlines, flying throughout the Continental United States, Canada, and Mexico. That led to a job with Aloha Air Cargo. I have been here at AAC since 2017. I have been fortunate to upgrade to a 737 Captain and was recently promoted to a Line and Simulator Check Airman and Instructor.
In your own words, why were you nominated for a safety award?
Once I got hired at Aloha Air Cargo and fell in love with the workplace, I decided that Aloha would be home for my career. In making this decision, I felt that I should do my best to make this the most enjoyable and safest work environment for myself, my co-workers, and those to come.
Is there something in your life that drove your commitment to safety? How did you end up so focused on it?
Something that drove my commitment to safety was as a child watching my dad, a Tug Boat Captain who hauled fuel interisland in Hawaiʻi for 30-plus years. I was always in awe of how he could maneuver something so large in and out of docks, sometimes blanketed under the completed darkness of night. It was true art, in my opinion, watching him dock these monstrous barges with such precision and grace. I remember him saying the key was teamwork. Each person played a key role in the dance of docking the barge. Leading into my career, I would always compare what we do in aviation to those on the ocean and see the resemblance in the operations. With safety being our number one concern, it truly is teamwork that drives safety to either be successful or not.
What was your first impression of AAC? Tell us your favorite story about your time with the company.
Being born and raised here in Hawaiʻi, I was taught that family should always fall at the top of your priorities. Coming onboard with Aloha Air Cargo, I felt exactly that when I walked through these doors in 2017. We pride ourselves in our operation, and together we have created a tight community, or what we tend to think of as a family. I think the Disney movie Lilo and Stitch said it best when they said: ‘Ohana means family, and family means no one gets left behind.’ This is a clear core value here at AAC. Within all departments, we work together to keep the wheels turning. My favorite time within the company was my first flight following training back home in the islands. It was an early morning flight to Kauaʻi, and it just felt good knowing that I again was serving the people of Hawaiʻi. I look at our daily grind as a way of giving back to the people of Hawaiʻi, especially my elders, who paved the way for me to be able to do what I do today.
Think about a time in your career when you felt like what you were doing was somehow less than completely safe. What did you learn from that experience?
Following graduation from college, I moved back home in the hopes of pursuing a job. Call it luck or just being in the right place at the right time, I was hired to fly cargo inter-island within a month of being back in the islands. Within the first year or so, I noticed a negative trend in the operation, creating extremely unsafe practices. Daily flights were being dispatched at the same weight .It caught my attention, then began to raise red flags and concern me. After doing a little more research, I learned that the carrier was loading the aircraft from back to front, basically playing Tetris, fitting in as many boxes as possible without weighing the freight. This was something that went on for some time until pilots began to take note of the activity, and we collectively put a stop to it. We forced the company to start to do things the “legal and safe way” and weigh everything put onto the aircraft. Through this experience, I learned that, sadly, sometimes people or businesses make decisions that completely disregard safety, especially the safety of us pilots and others around the aircraft. I decided from that day forward, it was up to me as a pilot to ensure my work is done with safety at the lead so that I return home safely to my number priority, my family.
Speaking up for safety can be difficult for some people. What advice would you give to someone within our family of companies who’s convinced their feedback won’t matter – or worse, that they’ll somehow be punished for taking action?
My driving force is always my family. I consistently ask myself, “Is what you’re doing the safest course of action? Will this decision allow you to be home at the end of this shift?” I keep in mind that my actions and decisions while at work could directly affect not only myself, my family but everyone else around me. Knowing this, I always try to remind people that no matter your role or position within the company or daily operation, it’s key to take action. Taking action even during times when you don’t feel comfortable could save the lives of many and, most importantly, allow everyone to get home safely to their families. AAC has many different types of reporting options that don’t require people’s names, etcetera, if that worries some. This is important to know because people can be intimated or fear losing their jobs by admitting their wrongdoing or the wrongdoings of others. We are all human, and we all make mistakes; knowing this, it’s best to remember to simply “see something, say something!” Stop it before it escalates into something beyond one’s control.