After opening his first company at age 14, Nick Tarascio earned his pilot’s license at 16, and by 19 he was flying Learjets and had earned a full scholarship to Polytechnic University’s computer engineering program. Now, as the CEO of Air East Airways, Nick is the point man for customer service, finance, human resources, marketing, business development, and operations. Although aviation is his foremost passion (he has logged over 2,000 hours of flight time), Nick also is a professional musician, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Nick was kind enough to sit down with The Campus Socialite and shed some light on his experiences in the air and around the world as he made one thing abundantly clear in his responses: for Nick Tarascio, the sky is the limit.
The Campus Socialite: Just to start things off, please let our readers know just how you got into aviation and aircraft operation.
Nick Tarascio: My dad had me flying in little airplanes by the time I was 2. In 3rd grade, my teacher called my mom and said I was a pathological liar. Until then, I thought everyone one had both cars and planes. My passion for flying stems from my experiences as a child, but my passion for the business side of it came much later in life when I realized that as an owner, the business is my canvas. My family and I decided to create an environment that enables passionate aviators to make a living for themselves and their families.
CS: Discuss your experiences in learning to fly a plane. Did you find it to be as difficult as you originally anticipated?
NT: Again, being born into it, I was accustomed to the way it felt to fly. I had also absorbed so much knowledge from being around pilots my whole life. I knew all of the tips and tricks before I ever piloted a plane myself. In reality though, flying is much easier than most people ever anticipate. There is often a moment of disbelief when a first timer takes the controls. In some cases, people are annoyed that they waited so long to try something that was so much easier than could have ever dreamed. I was not only young when I learned, but I also looked even younger so at 16 when I was flying the aircraft by myself, there was a look of confusion whenever I deplaned. Even at 17 when I earned my full license, I still could have passed for 14. I embraced the shock value until I was about 25 and then it wasn’t as shocking, but it still continues to impress people.
CS: Where is your favorite destination to fly to?
NT: Being on the East Coast, we rarely get to see real mountains. With our poor excuses for vertical rock formations, whenever I go out west to Colorado or Arizona, it is such a treat. I once went out to Monument Valley with my plane and flew around the Mesas. At times, you think you are looking at the moon or Mars from just a few hundred feet. It’s truly breathtaking.
CS: Many people are afraid of flying, much less piloting their own aircraft. What advice would you give to these individuals to assist them in overcoming their fears?
NT: I actually don’t know anyone who is afraid of flying. I know many people who are afraid of crashing. And that goes for driving in cars as well. Fear of flying is often really a fear of having no control or fear of the unknown. I have am scared to try rock climbing because I don’t really understand the safeties that are built into the gear. So in order to overcome any fear, knowledge goes a long way. Learning about how aircraft fly and reading the statistics about just how safe airplanes are is a great comfort. The best way, though, is to get in a small airplane and try flying. Like I said earlier, it is so easy and aircraft are designed so well that you can let go of the controls and the airplane will try to stabilize itself. Interestingly enough, the million-dollar question always seems to be, “What happens if the engine quits?” Every airplane has the capability to glide if the engine quits so whether you are in a 747 or little 4-seater, the airplane will continue to fly and allow the pilot time to choose the best spot for an off airport landing.
CS: I am sure some high-profile individuals have boarded your planes. Do you have any particular noteworthy clients that come to mind?
NT: I am not at liberty to share names of clients as they highly value their privacy. I can say that we have flown many politicians, actors, musicians, celebrities and socialites. While I won’t name drop, I do have some pictures with high profile clients in my lobby so you’ll have to come in to see them if you’re that curious.
CS: Have national crises involving air travel, particularly 9/11, affected business operations?
NT: 9/11 changed the way the world flies. What used to be somewhat of a pleasure is now a completely horrible experience. Security lines and minimum wage TSA agents tearing through people’s personal belongings have pushed many people to switch to private travel. I recently heard that swine flu outbreaks have increased the demands of private travel for executives. In fact, most every major crisis boosts the demands of exclusive travel services except, of course, economic downturns. The financial crisis has forced many people to go back to utilizing the airlines and/or stop traveling altogether.
CS: Telling a girl that you fly your own plane has to be the king of pick-up lines. Have you ever used your plane flying privileges as the ultimate “wingman?”
NT: If I could land my plane in front of a club or a lounge, I absolutely would. The problem with the airplane pick up line is that I either come off as the coolest guy in the place or the biggest bullshit artist. I have, however, mastered the skill of making sure people find out about the planes through people other than myself so it isn’t seen as bragging and is credible. In fact, I think I’ll use this interview as credibility next time I try to pick up a chick with the pilot routine.
CS: Glad to help out in any way possible. Moving along, explain the idea behind “Couch Surfing” and tell me about some interesting experiences you’ve had with couch surfing.
NT: Couchsurfing (CS) is the most profound thing to happen in my recent years and I will tell you what it technically is, but more importantly what affect it had on me. CS is worldwide social experiment where individuals can post a profile and either stay in other people’s homes or offer their homes out to travelers. This allows for a cultural exchange that is otherwise stifled in a hotel room environment where people experience a sterile and pre-packaged experience. When I got involved, I was overwhelmed with the kindness and trust that people have for each other. I had never seen this level of generosity and it completely rekindled my faith in humanity. For example, I once had planned a snowboarding trip in Rutland, VT and my host said she only had room for one visitor. I asked if there was any way I could bring a second person with me. She offered to relocate to a friend’s place so that I could have her place to myself. This was foreign to me at the time, but I have seen people perform random acts of kindness time and time again through this community.
CS: Is flying the only profession that you can imagine yourself taking part in?
NT: Definitely not. I would love to try so many other things, but I would still use aviation as a tool for whatever other profession I chose. In fact, my goal has always been to make a living with my music career (an impossible sounding feat as of late) and so I am working on uniting my two passions by performing with my band at aviation events like air shows. I could also see myself as a professional snowboarder. Anyone that has ever snowboarded with me probably can’t see that, but I have a really good imagination.
CS: To wrap up, what are some key suggestions you can offer to people that are interested in learning how to fly?
NT: Google the nearest flight school, go visit and take an intro flight. In most cases, it’s much cheaper than people think and you will actually get to fly the plane yourself. It is completely safe, totally exhilarating and if you are trying to impress your friends, it makes for a great response to, “what did you do today?” “Ahh nothing much. Ate lunch, watched a little TV, flew a plane. You know, the usual.”
For more on Nick (http://www.facebook.com/rockstarnik) and a complete look at the services offered by Air East Airways, check out http://www.aireast.com/. Keep a look out for Nick’s new weekly travel column exclusively at The Campus Socialite. Learn how to live like a rock star by simply learning how to fly.