Your Career Is Ready | Original Article Featured in Professional Pilot June 2021 Edition
With the past 18 months proving to be a transitional time for many professional pilots, NICHOLAS AIR, one of the nation’s fastest-growing Private Air Travel Providers, continues to attract and retain top talent across the industry. We sat down with NICHOLAS AIR Chief Pilot, Matt Caldwell, to talk about the state of pilot employment and what specifically NICHOLAS AIR offers to the professional aviator.
Captain Caldwell, can you tell us a bit about the current state of the market and how NICHOLAS AIR has approached it?
I believe there are a lot of skeptics in the pilot market right now that are looking for stability and the ability to balance a great career with their responsibilities away from the cockpit. We recognize the family element here at NICHOLAS AIR and we know the families share in “the job” just as much as the pilots do. It is why we home base our pilots, it is why we offer several scheduling options to our pilots, and it’s why we offer a level of stability and opportunity that they cannot find elsewhere.
This isn’t just a job, this is a career choice with a full succession plan about where your career can go. I myself started on the line, working my way through various airframes, and eventually becoming Chief Pilot. For our new hires to look at my situation and see that they too have those same opportunities, is a feature of our company that they can’t find elsewhere.
The market has shifted and required companies to shift with it—what is it that brings pilots to NICHOLAS AIR looking for a position?
The opportunity to advance as an aviator, combined with great pay, are going to be the main contributors. There are too many ways for a pilot to be successful at NICHOLAS AIR depending upon what they have an interest in. There is a management track for those who want to be in operational leadership or pilot leadership, there are several pathways as Check Airmen and Instructors, and then there is the continued opportunity to advance in airframes.
The ability to contribute and get out of the “I am Pilot Number….” mentality that they have had at previous positions. They want to be a valued part of a company and have their voice heard. It is something our pilots value greatly.
When you do have new pilots looking to work at NICHOLAS AIR, is there any commonality with where they come from in the industry?
We see a steady flow of former airline pilots who are looking for corporate stability but are also looking to be more than just a number. The ability to work side by side with leadership to create a better flight line is really intriguing to our pilots and they know that management will continue to create opportunities for them.
The reality is that it takes a special type of pilot to work at NICHOLAS AIR. They have to be exceptional aviators, but they are also passionate about customer service, mentorship, and integrity.
It seems that NICHOLAS AIR has a bit of a varied fleet—can you tell us about that and what that means for your pilots?
For our pilots, it means they can continually progress as they move from right seat to left, and then into different size aircraft to perform a new variety of missions. As a pilot, you get to learn a whole new set of profiles and there is always an opportunity to look up in the fleet and set your aspirations on a Captaincy in that airframe.
We operate six different aircraft types so each trip is different, each airframe is different, and it makes for a well-rounded aviator.
In an industry that is ripe with turnover, what keeps your pilots at NICHOLAS AIR?
The culture without question. From the top down, there is a family mentality and when you see the way our Operations team works with our pilots, you realize that everyone is in this together. We hear often from new pilots to our group how fractured the industry is and when they get here, they see a cohesiveness within the company that makes for a much more pleasant work environment.
What is the future for the company? Any insights on how that would affect the pilot market?
I see the future of the company being incredibly bright. It is no secret that NICHOLAS AIR has grown immensely in the past decade and in the past 18 months in particular. We’ve continued to buy new airplanes, which is a sign of the stability of the brand, and we will always look for new ways to add to our program.
As for the pilot market, it means that pilots will be able to turn to one company in particular (NICHOLAS AIR) if they are looking for stability, opportunity, great pay, and the chance to be a valued part of a team.
You mention the culture of the company and the flight line, but what does that translate to for a pilot in their day-to-day? How does a pilot see the benefits of that as they go through their week?
For our pilots, they are keenly aware of the elevated professional standard required to be invited to join the NICHOLAS AIR flight line. They know it is an elite group and they know that it takes a special type of pilot to be successful here.
On the topic of professional standards, it’s something that impacts every facet of their day. They take pride in being dressed professionally as pilots and not just wearing a golf shirt to work. They take pride in the cleanliness and quality of the planes they fly, and then when they can pair that against the home-basing, the schedule, and the pay, it’s really a special place for our guys to be and they are aware of that. Honestly, I think the whole industry knows how special it is here too.