Q&A with a Republic Pilot: Neil Chidalek

Neil Chidalek started at LIFT at the very beginning of 2020, to get his Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI) and Certificated Flight Instructor Instrument (CFII) ratings and then instruct at LIFT. At LIFT, Neil met many like-minded aviation geeks that became friends but also enjoyed making learning a fun experience for his students. Learn more about Neil and how he went from Police Officer to First Officer at Republic Airways.


  • Favorite overnight city? ORF Virginia Beach
  • Dream airport to fly into? It’s always cool flying into ORD
  • Favorite plane flown? SR20
  • Dream plane to fly? Boeing 787
  • Hardest rating to achieve? CFI
  • Favorite airport meal? Smoothies!
  • Role model? Chesley Burnett “Sully” Sullenberger and Neil Armstrong

What made you want to be a pilot/what drew you to aviation? 

Neil Chidalek: After going to airshows when I was a kid, I knew I wanted to be a pilot. Just hearing all the engine sounds and seeing the pilots had me hooked! I  graduated from Purdue University and became a police officer. After I paid off all of my student loans and had some additional money, I started flying again after five years of no flying. That additional flying made me realize that being a pilot is always what I wanted to do, so I went for it!


When were you a student at lift? 

Neil: I started at LIFT in January 2020 to complete my CFI and CFII training. I began instructing in July of 2020.

Neil: As a student, I felt welcomed and made several friends who were also passionate about aviation. As an instructor, I had mostly good students who didn’t mind putting in the work. I tried to make their learning experience as fun as possible.


What made you excited to go to Republic to fly? 

Neil: I really like having the ability to be based in Indianapolis. Republic is a great first step into the world of being a commercial airline pilot. Also, there are great opportunities to upgrade to captain!


What was training at Republic like? 

Neil: The training can seem overwhelming at first, but I found that if you take it one thing, one topic at a time, you will get through it no problem. The training at Republic really was top notch, and I felt well prepared to enter the cockpit by the end of it.


How did your education at LIFT prepare you for the airlines? 

Neil: The best thing LIFT did to prepare me for the transition to Republic were the procedures, callouts and flows as well as the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and Flight Operations Manual (FOM) which are almost identical to Republic’s!


Did you feel like you had an advantage compared to others in your class because of your training at LIFT Academy? 

Neil: Yes, I do feel like I had an advantage. Already knowing the SOP and FOM certainly helped, and it was also helpful to have other LIFT students in my training class at Republic, I had built in study partners.


What tools did you rely on the most during your training at Republic? 

Neil: I heavily relied on reading very carefully through the SOP and studying callouts. Also just sitting and chair flying was a huge help for me.


What is it like to be a commercial airline pilot? 

Neil: It’s great to know you made it to the highest level of being a pilot. You really have the best “office” views and get to work with other pilots who are professional and knowledgeable. And the travel privileges are also great – I just went on a delayed honeymoon with my wife to Fiji!


What do you have to look forward to in your career as a pilot? 

Neil: Currently, I am looking forward to upgrading to captain as soon as I am eligible!