A late-Saturday-night trip to a Boeing 737 simulator, courtesy of his father in law, inspired Mark Nolen, then 26, to become a career pilot. Despite the somewhat late start, Nolen is now a pilot at a major airline thanks to his highly motivated, goal-oriented job search.
Nolen's first paying aviation job was as a flight instructor at the West Houston Airport. "I was very aggressive about getting an interview," Nolen said. "I learned about the airport and flight school and arrived at the interview in business attire. I was very motivated to accumulate hours fast."
Nolen utilized his networking abilities to score coveted multiengine time. "I met a guy who leased a [Beechcraft] Baron and he flew every day to build time. I would ride with him on my days off to build time."
In 2003, Nolen was hired as an Embraer 145 first officer by Chautauqua Airlines. "I was fortunate to be hired by a company that was growing rapidly."
At Chautauqua, Nolen upgraded as fast as possible to captain and quickly built the all-important turbine pilot-in-command time. Two years later his goal airline, Continental Airlines, had begun hiring and in true Nolen style, he pursued it aggressively, landing a job in July 2005.
The lure to Continental? One of Continental's bases is in his hometown of Houston.
Nolen's persistence paid off--big time. To go from the streets to a major airline job in four years is impressive, indeed.
Pete Bedell is a Boeing 737 first officer for a major airline and former technical editor of AOPA Pilot.