July 1, 2009
Former Navy Fighter Pilot Lands at OJPC
Piloting a supersonic fighter for the US Navy was a dream come true for Bill Noelker, a former F/A-18 pilot. “One of my earliest memories is watching the airplanes land and take-off from an observation point near Greater Cincinnati Airport with my father. From that day forward all I could think of was becoming a pilot.” While in high school that dream became reality when Bill, flying out of Lunken Airport, soloed for the first time. “I was nervous but confident. It was one of the greatest days of my life. I had no idea where it would lead. All I knew is that I loved it.”
Bill eventually graduated from Beechwood high school in Northern Kentucky and received his undergraduate degree from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky in 1987. It was there that he was recruited by the Navy to attend Aviation Officer Candidate School after graduation. He accepted and in 1989, after two grueling years of pilot training, he was awarded the coveted Navy Wings of Gold. As the number one student in his pilot class, Bill was honored by being allowed to select the type of aircraft that he would fly. “I choose F/A-18’s of course. It was at the time the best fighter aircraft in the Navy. Everyone wanted to fly it and I was no exception.” Bill had a long successful career as a fighter pilot, including participating in the first Gulf War and the War on Terror, acting as an instructor pilot and being awarded numerous medals and citations. After 9 years of active service, however, it was time for Bill to move on.
Like landing aboard an aircraft carrier at night, the decision to leave the Navy was a difficult one. “I loved flying, but I also loved my family and I wanted my three kids to grow up with a Dad. I wanted to be an active part of their lives.” In 1996 Bill accepted a job with United Airlines and began his second career as a commercial airline pilot. “My second career lasted almost ten years but was cut short when I was medically grounded. I was devastated. I was a pilot! That was my identity and now it was gone.” This he quickly realized was wrong. Being a pilot was not who he was; it was simply something he did and he could, if he wanted, do something different. And it was that realization that eventually landed Bill at OJPC.
“I was attracted to the legal profession because I wanted to serve my country again. I missed the sense of service that I had in the military and what better way to serve than to advocate for peoples constitutional rights.” Bill currently is a 4th year law student at Chase College of Law. He is participating in the OJPC Constitutional Litigation Clinic and will graduate with honors in May of 2010.