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Following Dreams

"Helicopter Pilot"

Taylor: How long have you been a helicopter pilot?

Nicola: I have been flying helicopters for a little over 17 years.


Taylor: Did you start as an assistant and work your way up?

Nicola: I learned how to fly airplanes while I was in high school and getting ready to go to college. When I finished up my degree at collage, I wanted to get into flying. You couldn’t really find anything to do that was more advanced than airplanes, so I decided to do helicopters. I took a demo flight with a company out in California and got hooked on flying helicopters. I learned to fly and worked my way into a job with the company that I had learned at. I was very fortunate.


Taylor: Where are some of the places that you have been while flying a helicopter?

Nicola: I’ve been all over the southern United States. A few years ago, I flew from Virginia all the way to San Diego, California.  I’ve even flown in Indiana, so I have been to quite a few places.

Nicola at the controls over the James River.

Taylor: What was your favorite place?

Nicola: It’s hard to single one out, but I did love the cross country flight to Southern California because the weather there is so beautiful.


Taylor: What are some of your most memorable experiences while being a helicopter pilot?

Nicola: I have flown some famous people during the NASCAR races.  I’ve flown a few celebrities coming in and out of there which is always fun. I’ve also flown almost all the NASCAR drivers. I’ve even transported a couple of politicians and several movie stars.


Taylor: What was one of your more scary experiences while flying a helicopter?

Nicola: The scary ones are always when you get caught out in bad weather. It’s one of those things that you try to avoid, but sometimes Mother Nature has her way. When fog rolls in you can’t see very well and it is a scary experience.


Taylor: What did you want to be when you were 12 years old?

Nicola: We were traveling a lot when I was young. I think I had a little bit of an interest in aviation because my mom was a flight attendant. I was always around an airport.  At that point I wasn’t necessarily into helicopters, but I knew I wanted to work in aviation.


Taylor:   When did you decide to work in helicopters?

Nicola: I finally made up my mind in the last couple years of high school. My sister is older than I am and she had decided that she wanted to fly. So of course, I had to do what big sister did.

Nicola shows Taylor another helicopter in their fleet.

Taylor:  Where did you go to school to become a helicopter pilot?

Nicola: I didn’t exactly go to a flight school; I went to a school that offered flight training. I got the training that you get when you are in a flight school and I also got some special attention because they didn’t have a whole classroom of students.


Taylor: Who would you say were your mentors?

Nicola: My mom and dad supported me and they still get excited about all the different places I get to go.


Taylor: As a girl, do you remember having any peer pressure?

Nicola: When I went the University Of South Hampton, I was studying engineering. The class was 95% guys and there was always one professor that didn’t want a lady in the class and didn’t think I should be there. It’s still a male dominated field.


Taylor: How did you overcome those peer pressures?

Nicola: You really just have to go out with the mentality that you know you can do it. It really doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks. If you start thinking that you can’t do it, then you’re just beating up on yourself.


Taylor: What was one of your fondest memories growing up?

Nicola: My parents would always make an effort to get the family out and do something on the weekends. We would go out on a Sunday outing unless it was pouring rain. And when it rained, we would sit in the house and play a game.


Taylor: Were you involved in any sports or programs at school?

Nicola: I was involved in more activities in collage, but not any outdoor ones. I did take guitar lessons when I was younger.


Taylor: What kind of friends did you try to surround yourself with?

Nicola: I was pretty shy so I usually hung out with people that were shy and had the same interests as me.


Taylor: Were there any fears that you had to overcome?

Nicola: My biggest fear was public speaking. My high school made every class do an assembly in front of the school and I am not big about going on stage. When I was learning to fly we had to talk on the radio. I was one of those teenagers that didn’t even want to talk on the phone!


Taylor: If there are any girls that want to be a helicopter pilot when they grow up, what advice do you have for them and what studies do you think they should focus on?

Nicola: Background doesn’t matter; you have to have the mind-set that you know you can do it. You have to be good at science and math. You don’t have to learn how to build the air craft, but just knowing the background and knowing math and physics is a great help. And it’s important to have the ability to study.

A helicopter view of Richmond, VA.

Taylor: You are going to speak to girls all around the world through, so what encouragement do you have for them?

Nicola: Whatever your dreams are don’t let anybody discourage you from following them. You can find ways to do whatever you put your mind to. It’s amazing when you start down a road how doors open up for you.  Work really hard at whatever you want to do and you will succeed.



Click to play a "shout out" from Nicola Newland


Play video clip!
Click to see my helicopter ride!



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