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  • Writer's pictureSun Country

Ryan Knipping: From first flights to First Officer

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

Ryan at Sun Country Airlines in front of a plane

Growing up in Eagan, Minnesota, Ryan Knipping had a unique view. His house sat right on the final approach to one of the runways at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport. This early exposure, coupled with a gift of a discovery flight from his mother on his 16th birthday, ignited a passion for aviation in young Ryan. It was during this flight that he learned about the Minnesota Career Education Camp (ACE Camp).

"I was always interested in aviation, but didn’t know where to start," Ryan recalls about the time he flew on a C130 during the camp. "After the camp, I knew I wanted to major in Commercial Aviation at The University of North Dakota."

The day of Ryan’s first solo flight.
The day of Ryan’s first solo flight.

But how did Ryan transition from a flying small single engine aircraft to a Boeing 737 at Sun Country Airlines? The answer lies in our Bridge Program.

"I heard about the Bridge Program from our former Chief Pilot, Lindsay Dunham, while I was flight instructing at UND," Ryan says. This unique program allowed Ryan to transition from instructing in small airplanes directly to flying commercial airliners. "The program gave me all the training manuals and checklists six weeks before my start date, which let me focus on the material in ground school and ensured success in both procedures training and simulator training."

The day Ryan got his Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) certificate
The day Ryan got his Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) certificate.

When asked what sets our Bridge Program apart from similar programs elsewhere, Ryan's Midwestern pride shined through: "The bridge program lets someone like me have the incredible chance to fly a large aircraft immediately after my time as a flight instructor. The opportunity to bypass regional airlines and start a career at my hometown airline sooner is the program's biggest highlight!"

As a First Officer, Ryan most enjoys the diversity of flying in his role. From cargo to charter to scheduled flights, no two days are the same. He attributes much of his smooth transition and success to the Bridge Program. "I already had a working knowledge of the aircraft systems and checklist procedures on the first day. Plus, I was paired with a mentor, Cameron DeVries, who helped answer any questions during training."

It's not just the flight paths that vary; Ryan describes working at Sun Country as dynamic, with a balance of rapid growth and hometown roots. "Sun Country is expanding fast, but we still cherish our Minnesota roots. The open communication between pilots and upper management is something I particularly value."

Looking ahead, Ryan envisions a bright future at Sun Country. "In the next 5-10 years, I see myself upgrading to a Captain, continuing to explore diverse routes in the 737." And for those considering a career at Sun Country or specifically the Bridge Program? Ryan doesn’t hold back: "It's no easy feat transitioning from a small plane to a commercial airliner. It takes dedication – long nights and early mornings of studying."

Reflecting on his journey, Ryan concludes, "If I could give my younger self one piece of advice, it'd be this: Never say no to anything in this industry. A simple conversation led me to the Bridge Program and now, I'm a First Officer on the 737!"

Ryan and his sister at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Terminal 2 Airport.
Ryan and his sister at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Terminal 2 Airport.

Interested in learning more about pilot careers at Sun Country?

Pilot Bridge Program
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