February 12, 2014

Flying in: Lewis Cass grad makes living as commercial pilot

Lewis Cass grad pilots Boeing to Grissom for paint job

By Amie Sites Pharos-Tribune

---- — A Boeing 777 aircraft with American Airlines flew in to Grissom Aeroplex Monday afternoon thanks to pilot Jay Strauch.

The plane flown by Strauch, a Lewis Cass High School graduate, was scheduled to be painted at the Dean Baldwin facility at Grissom Aeroplex. Like many other planes, it’s being painted a different color scheme because of the merger of American Airlines and U.S. Airways.

After graduating from Lewis Cass in 1972, he went into the Air Force Academy where he graduated in 1976. He spent more than seven years in the U.S. Air Force and traveled about 1,800 hours as a pilot. When he became a pilot for American Airlines he was ranked as captain for the U.S. Air Force.

As a pilot with the airline for nearly three decades, he has flown 20,000 hours. Some 8,000 of those hours have been in the 777, Strauch said.

Before Monday, Strauch had never seen the area from the air. Strauch said it was cool being able to see Walton and the high school again.

Strauch, who has been a pilot with American Airlines for 28 years, flies international flights out of Dallas. He splits his time between Indianapolis and Dallas.

Before flying out of Dallas, Strauch flew out of Chicago. One of his daughters is located in Dallas, which was one of the draws of moving locations. Two of his daughters are seniors at Purdue University. He comes back to Indianapolis three or four times a month.

Strauch isn’t the only one in his family involved with flying. His wife, Laura, is a commercial and corporate flight attendant.

Another draw to flying international flights out of Dallas was the better destination options.

A few of the many international destinations Strauch has landed in include Delhi, Shanghai, London, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Madrid, Paris, Sol and Frankfort.

One of his favorite destinations is Frankfurt, Germany where the food is great and people are nice, Strauch said.

Other favorite destinations are Asian trips to China and Japan, he said.

Strauch said there really isn’t a bad destination.

“Believe it or not, with three daughters, they like when I fly to China so I can buy purses and shoes,” Strauch said. “By the time I get to my room in China I have already received pictures of what they want.”

Strauch flies once a week. He admits most people think it is more glamorous than it really is.

Because of time zones changing on international flights, most times when he is done he wants to go back to the hotel and sleep, he said. Depending on the destination some of the trips last three days and others are four days.

The shortest flight is to London, which is 10 hours. Flights to China are 14 and flights to India are 16 hours, Strauch said. Anytime a flight is more than eight hours, three pilots have to be on board and anything over 12 hours requires four pilots, he said.

Usually pilots will do something while traveling, but as far as touring a city, that’s rare, he said. However, Strauch said he took a four-hour drive to see the Taj Mahal and also took a trip to see the Great Wall after a flight.

Strauch said his favorite part of his job is being paid for doing something he likes.

“I feel pretty fortunate about that — most don’t get that opportunity,” Strauch said.

He also enjoys hanging out and flying with other pilots with similar military backgrounds.

The trip to Grissom was a circle of sorts for Strauch.

When he first received nomination for the Air Force Academy he had to go to Grissom and his mother worked out of the officer’s club at Grissom.

“It is cool I got to go back. It feels like I had a round robin,” Strauch said.

Amie Sites is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5117 or Follow her: @PharosAES.