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Q&A with Nora Jacobsen, XOJET Challenger 300 co-pilot

In honor of the 2013 Women in Aviation Conference, the XOJET Blog has been running a series of profiles of some of the great women who work at XOJET. We recently spoke with Nora Jacobsen, who stopped by XOJET’s booth at the 2012 conference and ended up joining us in July 2012—a month after retiring from a 20-year career as a U.S. Navy pilot. She’s now a co-pilot on the XOJET Challenger 300 super-mid-size jet.

XOJET Blog: Talk about your role at XOJET and what your responsibilities are.

XOJET Challenger 300 pilot Nora Jacobsen

Nora: I’m a co-pilot (or second in command) on a Challenger 300 jet. My responsibilities are essentially to fly the aircraft and to assist the captain with whatever he or she needs done: navigation, communicating with our Sacramento Operations Center, or helping with flight plans.

What’s wonderful about XOJET is that both pilots are equally responsible for customer service. We make sure that customers get comfortably situated in the aircraft, giving emergency briefs, and assist with luggage and catering. We have some really great customers, so it’s been a joy to fly them.

XOJET: How did you get started flying?

Nora: I always knew I wanted to go into the Navy, because my father and all my brothers were in the service. I was in the Navy ROTC program while attending Villanova University, and after I graduated, I was commissioned as an officer. I went to flight school and flew helicopters for the first few years.

XOJET: Were you ever deployed?

Nora: Many times. When I was flying helicopters, I deployed in the Mediterranean for six months on the USS Briscoe (DD-977). Then, when I switched to the C9B, we deployed for about 20 days at least once a year to Japan, Bahrain or Italy.

XOJET: You got to see a lot of the world.

Nora: Absolutely. That’s one of the reasons I became a pilot. I was born and lived overseas, and I knew that I wanted to travel. I wanted to see the world and experience everything it has to offer.

XOJET: What led you to attend the Women in Aviation conference four times?

Nora: I got involved in Women In Aviation 12 years into my career in the Navy, and when I started attending the conference, it was for networking—to meet other female pilots. After retiring from the service, I wanted to know what other careers were out there, what choices I had in aviation. The conference really opened my eyes.

XOJET: And what’s it like to be a pilot at XOJET?

XOJET Challenger 300 pilot Nora Jacobsen

Nora: It’s great. XOJET does a phenomenal job of screening and hiring pilots, and I think the pilot group is second to none. I was worried when I left the military about working with civilian pilots versus a squadron environment. When you’re in a squadron in the military, you’re very close to the people you fly with every day, you have a lot of adventures together, and you really get the feeling of being part of a family. At XOJET, I walked right back into that same situation. I’ve made good friends, and while we all live in different cities, we see each other on the road. These are people I want to know for the rest of my life.

XOJET: What’s the training like at XOJET when you’re first hired?

Nora: It’s fast and furious, but it’s good. You go to Sacramento for one week, where you learn the basics of the company and how they operate the aircraft, and then you attend simulator training in New Jersey (for the Challenger 300). Simulator training is a 17-day process, and it’s a fire hose, but it’s a great training center with great instructors. When you finish that simulator run and you check out with the FAA, you really feel like you’ve accomplished a lot.

XOJET: So what’s it like flying the Challenger 300?

Nora: Awesome! It’s a rocket ship. The capabilities of that aircraft are phenomenal; it’s well designed; it’s comfortable; and the passengers love it.

XOJET: What do you when you’re not flying?

Nora: Our family has a very active life. We work out, ski, play tennis, hike, and bike. We live near a lake and we’re buying a boat for the summertime.

Nora Jacobsen and her kids skiing

XOJET: On that note, what do you say to women who worry about juggling careers as pilots and having a family?

Nora: You have to figure out what your priorities are, because where there’s a will, there’s a way. I have a very supportive husband and a great support network of friends, but honestly, without my husband’s support, I couldn’t do the job that I do. If you have that support, there’s a path to fulfill whatever dream you want to pursue, so don’t give up.

XOJET: Do you have any advice for women attending Women In Aviation for the first time?

Nora: It’s such an incredible opportunity to network. My first year there, I didn’t even have a business card, so I ran to Staples and had cards made. That was the best $20 I ever spent. There’s never a bad time to network and there’s never not a good network connection. If people offer to help you, then they’re being honest. Call them, because they expect you to follow up.

XOJET: If you had to pick one thing, what would you say is your favorite part about being an XOJET pilot?

Nora: It’s an adventure. At the start of your rotation, you don’t know where you’re going to wind up for the next eight days. The bad part is not knowing how to pack—I have definitely been accused of bringing too much luggage. But I’ve been to Peru, I’ve been to the Caribbean, and I’ve been all over the United States. I woke up on my birthday in January in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. You know you’re going to go to incredible places and meet interesting people. Nothing’s ever boring at this job!

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