I’d like to share with you the story of Nolan Watkins, a pilot whose path took him across oceans, continents and multiple carriers, ultimately landing him his dream job. The hope is by sharing his story, we learn that through determination, patience and ultimately a positive, personable and professional attitude, we unwittingly open doors and opportunities that make our sacrifices well worthwhile.
Like many of us, Nolan Watkins always wanted to be a pilot. After graduating high school, Nolan enrolled at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, where he took his first steps towards fulfilling his dream. After building time as a flight instructor at EPIC Flight Academy and Sierra Academy of Flight, Nolan accepted a position as a First Officer for PSA out of Charlotte, NC. He was on his way towards achieving his ultimate goal, but not without additional sacrifice and effort.
As a pilot, one of the many advantages our career offers is the opportunity to decide where we would like to live. As you can imagine, this rare privilege offers pilots chances of a life-time, to set roots wherever their heart desires, whether it is returning to where they grew up or exploring new destinations. While on the surface, this is an extremely alluring advantage, it may come with a heavy cost. Commuting can be taxing on an individual as it often requires pilots to travel on days off, and depending on distances, may mean hours of flying just to get to work. It’s a sacrifice many make with the hope of one day working for their dream carrier, which may or may not require them to continue the commuting life.
For Nolan, calling Hawaii home was an easy and obvious decision. Beyond the predictable facts that Hawaii is both beautiful and rich in history, it’s also where Charity Tsuchiyama, Nolan’s fiancée, is from and where her family lives. Not wanting to be in a long-distance relationship, Nolan made the decision to commute rather than separate from Charity who is also a pilot for Skywest Airlines. This of course meant both spent countless hours traveling to and from base, crossing first the Pacific then the American Continent, all the while having to make connecting flights. The stress, both physically and mentally, is a daunting reality for many commuters. As Nolan neared his second year at PSA and with upgrade times continuing to lengthen, he realized that if Hawaii was to remain home, a solution to his lengthy commute was necessary. He applied to Compass Airlines in hopes of both reducing his commute and upgrading within a reasonable period of time.
After accepting a First Officer position with Compass Airlines out of Los Angeles, Nolan had successfully reduced his commute from 12 hours to 6. While this improvement in quality of life was immeasurable, the commute remained a tiresome and overwhelming process. During this time, developments between PSA and its business partners meant upgrade times had significantly reduced and had Nolan stayed, he would have been months away from captain upgrade. Simultaneously, Compass, which had a relatively short upgrade time, began reducing the number of captain slots which meant Nolan was to remain a First Officer for the foreseeable future. While clearly a frustrating circumstance, Nolan maintained a positive outlook on his future and looked forward to what lay ahead.
As a L.A. based pilot with Compass Airlines, Nolan found fortune while commuting to and from Honolulu. Over the years, Nolan had become a familiar face among Hawaiian Airlines crewmembers as he often found himself taking the jumpseat. During such rides, jumpseater and crew talk at length about the odds and ends of their jobs and lives as means of passing time. On occasion, Nolan found himself connecting on a personal level with crewmembers and established a positive rapport. One overnight, Nolan found himself in the company of some Hawaiian Airlines pilots en route to the hotel. It turns out, Nolan and the captain recognized each other from a previous flight and the two decided to grab dinner. Over the course of the evening, Nolan shared his experiences and aspirations, as we often do while conversing with our peers. Further impressed with Nolan’s demeanor, the captain offered to walk Nolan’s résumé into the recruitment office of Hawaiian Airlines.
A few months later with an interview in the bag, Nolan is now awaiting a class date with Hawaiian Airlines. It’s worth mentioning that during his interview, the simulator instructor made a point of saying he recognized Nolan from prior flights and was happy to see him. Based out of Honolulu and unsure which aircraft he will initially be assigned, Nolan is finally home and with the airline of his dreams. Like many of us Nolan worked hard while earning his ratings, and worked hard as a First Officer for both PSA and Compass Airlines. What set Nolan apart was more than good fortune, but a professional and positive attitude. His ability to connect with and make a positive impression with those he encountered is part of the many moving pieces that resulted with his new job. Be the kind of person you’d enjoy spending time with and be the professional both while on and off the job.