Pearsall Flies from Pilot to President



Elite Airways President John Pearsall was in town to present news of nonstop jet service between Pittsburgh International Airport and Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, beginning on Feb. 23. Not coincidentally, this is one day before the first home game of the 2018 spring training season at LECOM Park in Bradenton. Pearsall, always smiling and ready with a broad laugh, shared with us his humble beginnings in the airline industry, and how the job he has now grew out of a teen-age fancy.

At what point did you know that travel was your calling?  I think early on, when I took my first flight at 15 years old. I started in this business as a pilot and still am an active pilot. The challenge of getting into the airline industry is different. There are different paths to get in. [As a pilot] I took the corporate VIP path. And that worked out very well. I was overseas for many years flying, and then back here in the United States. That's led to one opportunity after another, flying and working for other major airlines. It's a tremendous opportunity to now be the president with Elite Airways.

Did you stay with corporate VIP service during your time as a pilot?  I've done it all. I've done private, I’ve done corporate, I've done commercial. I've have not done cargo, [laughs] but all of those venues have been absolutely tremendous in the education and how I got to this point.

What is the hardest thing about the transition from pilot to president?  I spend a lot of time on email, a lot of time in the office. I find that having the expertise as a pilot really helps in running the company. It's been a tremendous asset for me, as opposed to coming from the financial industry for example.

What keeps you in the CEO driver's seat at Elite?  I keep my job because I run the day-to-day operations. We have talented folks in different compartments of the organization: sales, maintenance, reservations, and customer service. Having that background in running flights in the past has been a perfect segue.

What's going on behind the scenes that customers are not aware of?  Obviously to keep the flight on time, to take great care of the customers, and there is a lot behind the scenes folks that [passengers] never see. From the maintenance staff to the operations staff, and the dispatchers behind the scenes. There are a lot of people that make up an airline to get you from point "A" to point "B" that you never see. You see your gate person, you see your check-in person, and you maybe see the baggage people, but you never see the, you know, hundred people that are behind the scenes that help you get there safely.

During the press conference you said we could be looking at 30,000 passengers taking direct flights form Pittsburg to SRQ.  It's going to be a tremendous asset to Sarasota Bradenton. We do believe they love coming down here for Spring Training and the holiday breaks and we think it's a great time to start this service.

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