*When it comes to flying, the ability to navigate the friendly skies fits like hand and glove to 20-year-old pilot Jonathan Strickland.
So much so, that the young aviator’s love of flying is attributed to being focused to the point that he says: “I do not know what I would be doing today if I were not for aviation.”
“I’ve been flying since the age of eight and ever since then, I have always loved the freedom that comes with piloting an aircraft. The feeling that you are in 100% control of the operation is incredible,” Strickland told EURweb via e-mail. “All I ever wanted to do was to fly airplanes. With that said, it was not ‘difficult’ to stay focused on that goal. In addition to this, I also had great support from my mother, father, as well as grandparents in looking for any opportunity that would help me making my dream of being a pilot a reality.”
Reality is one filled with major accomplishments for Strickland, who transformed the sky into a home away from home with his first general aviation plane flight in the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles youth program in Torrance Ca. and lessons learning how to fly helicopters.
Strickland’s hard work ultimately paid off with him becoming the youngest person to solo a helicopter and airplane on the same day as well as the youngest African-American to solo a helicopter, fly a helicopter round-trip internationally and solo six airplanes and one helicopter in the same day. Add to that, a current job flying the Bombardier CRJ 700 regional jet for United Airlines Express based in Chicago’s O’ Hare International and it’s safe to say that dreams do come true for the young man who grew up in Inglewood, CA.
“Words cannot explain how grateful and happy I am that at my age to be an airline pilot,” stated Strickland, who also teaches flight classes at Beach Cities Aviation Academy in Hawthorne, CA. “As a flying instructor, I greatly emphasize the basics of flying. “No matter what kind of airplane you’re flying, you’re going to be using the basics.”
Among Strickland’s influences are the famed Tuskegee Airmen. Although he has yet to see “Red Tails,” the movie based on the group’s struggle to become part of the Allies efforts to defeat the Germans in World War II, Strickland predicts the film “has and will continue to open the world of aviation up to not only African-Americans, but to anyone who never thought they could become a professional in the field of aviation.”
As for interest in his chosen field among African-Americans, Strickland notes that flying would have the same impact as sports and entertainment with balanced exposure.
“I don’t think African-Americans aren’t interested, it’s just the lack of being exposed to the world of aviation, nothing more than out of sight, out of mind,” he explained.
Looking ahead, Strickland plans on continuing to promote aviation to America’s youth as well as making a big goal a reality.
“My biggest dream is to become the youngest aviator to fly a Learjet around the world in 2013,” Strickland confessed. “I plan on flying a Learjet 45 or Learjet 60 around the world. I would like to raise the awareness of flying and the role that education, especially math and science, plays in aviation. On the trip, we plan on making many stops to promote education and raise money and awareness for a couple of charities. We are currently seeking sponsorships to make the trip around the world. I am also pursuing my education and I am seeking scholarships to help me continue on.”
For details about sponsoring Strickland or to get in contact with the young pilot, visit jonathanstrickland.com, contact Keith O’Derek/Upfront Productions at [email protected] or watch the following YouTube video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4m5SsW6u3oE&feature=channel.