Mark Cicali

Chief Pilot
REACH Administration – Santa Rosa, CA

How long have you been with REACH and what positions have you held?

I started in May 2008 after retiring from the Marines. I was a Line Pilot at REACH 9, I helped open REACH 13 as Lead Pilot and I was Assistant Chief Pilot for the southern region. In April, I was promoted to Chief Pilot.

Exactly what does it mean to be Chief Pilot?

It means that I serve the pilots, flight department staff, and the company. I support our customers and am ultimately responsible for everything that the pilots within the company do or don’t do when it involves flight operations.

Can you describe your current job in a few sentences?

I’m responsible for hiring, training and performance of the pilots. I serve the instructors, assistant chief pilots, lead pilots, and the line pilots with their responsibilities supporting the company mission. I liaise with the FAA concerning regulatory issues and support a compliant atmosphere. I’m also responsible for all future planning that has to do with flight operations or that may have flight implications.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I was always fascinated with flight. My path to aviation was not clear because I didn’t have the means to pursue it. I didn’t have an epiphany and realize “I am going to do this or that and become a pilot”. Basically, opportunities presented themselves, I jumped on them and I haven’t regretted it since. I like challenges, and I’ve been a competitive athlete when I was young which required a lot of perseverance to succeed. I was a soccer player growing up in New Jersey and that got me into a good school. While at Rutgers University, I learned the Marine Corps had an aviation program so I left the soccer field and pursued a long list of challenges that would lead to being a helicopter pilot in the Marine Corps. My first time actually flying an aircraft was at flight school in Pensacola, Florida after nearly three years of initially pursuing it.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to continue in aviation after I retired from the Marine Corp. I was contemplating the corporate world, but deep down never wanted to get away from aviation. I blindly applied to a position at REACH not knowing they were about to expand to Southern California and they offered me this opportunity. It was another door that opened, and I walked through not knowing where it would lead. I have absolutely no regrets.

What’s your favorite thing about flying?

I don’t know if there’s just one favorite thing. When I get in an aircraft, I shed all the other stuff. I really enjoy the multidimensional aspect of flying, too, the perspective and freedom of it. It’s unique and dynamic. It’s exciting, and you’ve got a great view from your office window.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Balance. Keeping life in balance. It’s a lot of hard work, a lot of time away from home and a lot of sacrifice. It’s not a walk in the park, but at the end of the day, it’s rewarding. And that’s what I enjoy.

Do you have a surprising personal factoid to share?

I was brought up Italian but hate raw tomatoes.

Mark’s family:

  • Wife: Tondra
  • Sons: Tyler (24) and Kyle (21)

Can you talk about REACH and why you work for REACH?

There are great people here that do amazing things for people they will likely never know or see again. The culture here was easy for me to embrace and made my transition from the military a great experience. For me personally, I flew attack helicopters in the military, participating in multiple conflicts throughout the world and I recognize the worth of being on this side of things, saving lives. I couldn’t’t ask to be part of a better team. To come into this industry and particularly REACH with its compassion is truly rewarding.

Do you have a favorite story related to your job?

When you’re in the heat of the moment, watching the flight crews and clinicians do their work is awe inspiring. The most touching experiences are with the kids, like the times I’ve picked up infants with hands the size of my fingernail. The kids are the ones that I have the most memories of, and of getting them to where they needed to go so perhaps they have a better chance to pursue their dreams as I have had. As a child, I was hospitalized multiple times and never thought I would be able to fulfill my dream to fly but for a transport team that got me to where I needed to be, when I needed to be there.

Any final words?

REACH has provided me the privilege to participate in this wonderful profession, working with phenomenal people, who I am proud to serve. At the end of the day, what is most important is that our people get home safely, always. That is my passion.