Nolan: “I need to start anew, expand myself, and go more international.”

Approach to Charlotte-Douglas International airport

July’s community spotlight features Nolan Middlemas. He has been an App in the Air user since 2019, and is deeply entrenched in the aviation world, working as an airline ground crew member, and preparing for his commercial pilot certification, all at the same time. Read on to learn more about Nolan.

Nolan, checking out the MD-80 cockpit at the American Airlines Museum by DFW

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m 23 years old, and live in North Carolina. I’m currently a ramp agent for American Airlines, which is fun! If you look out the window at the ramp and see all those people running around, loading and unloading the planes, and parking and moving equipment around, that’s what we do. Pretty much everything that the plane needs to be done on the ground, we do. The cool thing is that if there’s a flight that’s open, we can get on and go wherever we’d like. Sometimes you a get a little stuck or there are delays, but whatever happens it makes for an interesting day. I’m also a private pilot, working on my commercial rating right now. That gives me another way to get around, whether it’s just flying myself or flying friends wherever.

How did you decide to pursue aviation as a career path?

I’ve loved aviation since I was young. I actually have some family members that are in the Air Force, and they used to fly B-52s. So since I was six years old, we often visited the Air Force base and got tours and it was always so cool to see those planes—I knew it was what I wanted to do. Fast forward to when I was probably 16 or 17, I signed up to join an airline as a ramp agent, and I did that from a regional airport. Next, I got my private pilot license when I was about 18 or 19. And then I got my instrument, which allows me to fly in the clouds and in a little more rough weather. And now I’m just building up my hours.

A stunning sunset wing-view above the Tampa Bay area

What has your experience been like since becoming a pilot?

It’s been pretty good! It’s cool flying up in the mountains—it makes it interesting with all the bumps and all the weather planning I have to look at because the weather is always changing in the mountains. I’ve only had one emergency, thankfully. I had to land in a grass-field with my instructor. I was thankful he was there to help out, but it was a wake-up call. We were up in the clouds, about 3,000 feet up, when we saw that the oil pressure gauge was at zero. That meant that the engine was getting no oil, and that the engine would pretty much tear itself apart if you don’t get to the ground quick. So we turned around and when we got about four miles from the airport, the engine started getting really loud and the whole plane was shaking, so we made the call to shut the engine down. We had to alert ATC (air traffic control), which was something I had never done—I never thought I’d hear myself say that we have to declare an emergency. With the engine shut down, we knew we were not going to make it to the runway, and we ended up landing in a private grassfield thankfully.

We had to alert ATC (air traffic control), which was something I had never done — I never thought I’d hear myself say that we have to declare an emergency.

A cockpit shot taken upon final landing at Charlotte-Monroe Executive Airport

Wow. Has that emergency experience changed the way you approach flying?

Every time you fly, your instructor is probably going to say “You always need to know where you’re landing. And sometimes you’ll think about that, and sometimes you honestly probably won’t. But ever since then, it has been the top thing on my mind. And every night I go through my emergency checklist with my flashcards. It was an eye opener, but I got lucky. It was a good learning experience.

We’re glad things turned out OK! So, we are fortunate to be recovering from the pandemic a bit more quickly in the United States. With that said, do you have any upcoming plans?

COVID has really opened up my eyes. I feel like I need to start anew, expand myself, and go more international with my travels. So that’s my big goal for this year. As countries begin to open up, I need to do more research and figure out what places need more tourism so that I can support local economies.

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