PORTLAND (NEWSCENTER MAINE) -- Three days a week, Elite Airways offers non-stop air service to Florida.

Its President and CEO John Pearsall has loved to fly since he was a kid. In fact, he soloed on the first day he could, his 16th birthday.

"The funny thing is in New Jersey, you can't have a driver's license until you're 17. So, I rode my ten-speed over to the airport and yet, I got into a plane and soloed that day!"

He worked his way through Monmouth University by flying bank checks to regional clearing houses. This means he was flying alone, at night through all sorts of weather while still a teenager.

"You know, back then, when you're a young kid and you're flying along and you think this is the best thing I could do."

Upon graduation he went to work flying in Saudi Arabia for companies including Lockheed and Mobil. He flew some famous passengers out of the Middle Eastern desserts. He was also the personal pilot for the Saudi Oil Minister and Sultan of Brunei.

He came back to the U. S. for a simpler life. He worked at America West Airline and helped start National.

With investors, he started Elite in 2007.

The airline is headquartered in Portland for several reasons. He has always like the area, his wife lives here and the FAA office in Portland was particularly helpful.

Eighty percent of Elite's flights are charters.

Pearsall started with NASCAR teams and now does a majority of his work with college teams.

This fall, he expects to receive delivery of his first 757's. He also expects to begin a maintenance base in Auburn-Lewiston that will employ 50 people.

"I kind of took a new path of a smaller jet to fill the needs of the sports community," he told NEWSCENTER.

Now in year eleven, his plan is working.