Student Spotlight: Stephen Nicholson

Meet Stephen Nicholson, a former engineer turned LIFT student. Stephen’s journey to LIFT is an interesting one as he changed careers and moved his family from Louisiana to Indy to pursue his dream of being a commercial airline pilot. He shares how he decided to fly with LIFT:

July 20, 2018 The day that everything changed! This was the date that I received an email informing me that I had been accepted into LIFT Academy to begin flight training. After dedicating 16 years to an engineering career, I finally had the opportunity to follow my dream of becoming a professional pilot. My family can tell you I was obsessed with aviation from a very young age; it was my dream to be a pilot. Prior to joining LIFT, I had gained my private pilot certificate; however, due to finances it had taken me four years! I knew that without going to a full-time program such as LIFT, I would most likely find it hard to achieve my dream. LIFT seemed ideal for what I was looking for: new and well-equipped aircraft, tuition repayment options and a direct path to flying for an airline due to being wholly owned by Republic Airways.

The journey to LIFT Academy was a long one….literally! I was living in Lafayette, Louisiana when I was accepted, around 900 miles south of Indianapolis. It was a challenge finding a home for our family from so far away, but luckily, we live in the age of the internet. Countless late nights on realtor websites and many emails narrowed things down to a short list of homes that we could look at on the two visits to Indianapolis that we made before our official moving day. The home search was definitely one of the more stressful aspects of the move to Indianapolis, and I would highly recommend anyone else moving from distant lands to consider taking as many fact-finding trips to Indianapolis as possible.

While preparing to leave our lives in Louisiana, my wife and I found ourselves with several questions on what life would be like in Indianapolis… How good are the schools? Where will we find work? How will we cope with snow? Do they even sell crawfish and boudin in Indiana? Luckily for us, LIFT utilizes an app called Slack that acts as a message board where prospective students, current students and staff can communicate and discuss items ranging from class work, available housing options, volunteer work and much more. This has been very helpful for me both prior to my move and while I have been here at LIFT, and I would encourage any prospective or current student to participate.

Our big day came January 20, 2019. This was the day that we left our lives in Louisiana and began our lives in Indiana. It was also the day where I began the transition by making a huge mistake! Rather than paying for a professional moving company, I decided to take the cheaper option of a U-Haul trailer—BIG MISTAKE! We had a LOT more stuff in our house than I realized. Eight round trips between Indy and Lafayette later it was complete, but I will never do that again! For those of you keeping score at home, that’s a total of around 14,500 miles driven over a two-week period, or around 60% of the circumference of the Earth.

As I approach my one-year anniversary living in Indianapolis and attending LIFT, I find myself reflecting on the past year and what I have achieved. Prior to attending LIFT, it took me four years to gain my private pilot certificate, and since joining LIFT I have progressed through all the ratings and am currently preparing to become a Certified Flight Instructor here at LIFT, all in under a year. I love how quickly it is possible to progress here. The staff is always available to provide assistance, and the students are quick to help each other out with studying or advice on flights that they have already completed. Being owned by Republic Airways gives us a common goal, and the benefits to that are clear as we all have the same end goal!

My family has settled in well since moving to Indy. Indiana has also begun to grow on us. Well, except for the weather. Our children had never seen snow prior to our move to Indy, so we always find ourselves outside in the yard building snowmen and throwing snowballs at any opportunity. There are tons of things to do for families here in Indy, and we highly recommend the Zoo and Children’s Museum. We also like to get out to the local parks as much as possible in the warmer weather. As I move toward my transition to Republic at the end of 2020, I will have a decision to make on my choice of crew base as Republic has many to choose from. While I initially planned on moving back to one of the southern bases, Indianapolis has given me a lot to think about….