The Remarkable Story Of Jamail Larkins
By ANN Correspondent Aleta Vinas
(This is the second in a three-part series on Jamail
Larkins, perhaps one of the most noticable rising stars in aviation
today. Reporter Aleta Vinas talked with Jamail, his friends and
those who look up to him in putting together this well-researched
story. Sit back, grab a cup of coffee and read on as Aleta picks up
the story when Jamail, at 13, hopes to get the FAA to allow him to
solo before his 16th birthday -- ed.)
Right after his first Young Eagle's
flight, Jamail Larkins became a volunteer for the organization. He
did whatever he could, helping with the Young Eagles flights,
preflight briefings, paperwork, moving planes, washing airplanes
and traditional airport-kid stuff for anyone else on the airport.
Anything to get a few hours in the cockpit.
Jamail's parents saw their son's seriousness about flying and
even though soloing was four years down the road he began flight
lessons while continuing as a Young Eagle volunteer. In 1997 with
about twenty flight hours, along with letters from his instructors
and area Designated Examiners, Jamail was ready to take on the FAA
and petition them to allow him to solo before he turned sixteen.
Jamail specifically flew with several instructors and Designated
Examiners to have many different evaluations of his proficiency to
submit to the FAA.
His reasoning for the petition was sound, he wanted to fly more
and if he were able to solo it would be less expensive and he would
have greater flexibility in having to only schedule an airplane.
Not to mention, he was a capable pilot. The FAA, however, didn't
agree. Jamail was turned down flat.
While continuing the fight, he attended Lakeland Sun 'N Fun as a
Young Eagles volunteer as well as Oshkosh EAA AirVenture later that
year. At Oshkosh he was approached by Lloyd Richards who remembered
Jamail from Sun 'N Fun. Richards was the Young Eagles Field Rep in
During their discussion, talk began
to center on Jamail's petition. Anyone nearby the two probably saw
the light bulb go off over Jamail's head when Richards announced
that you only had to be fourteen to solo in Canada. Richards
extended an invitation for the then thirteen year old, to stay with
him and solo in Canada when he turned fourteen. One of Jamail's
first thoughts was that if he soloed in Canada at fourteen that
would be sufficient proof to allow the FAA to approve his petition
to solo in the US before age sixteen.
Ah, the innocence of youth. Still, you have to admire his
persistence. Ultimately to no avail as the FAA did not see it his
way. Next in his mind was how to afford the trip. This independent
young man did not do what most kids his age would have done and run
home and ask his parents for money. Once again, unknown to his
parents Jamail began his plan of attack. Richards helped Jamail
with the necessary paperwork and Transport Canada bent over
backwards to help and make sure all the documentation was correctly
Jamail began a letter writing campaign, explaining his story, to
over one hundred aviation oriented companies, requesting their
sponsorship of his trip. Replies varied, American Airlines
sponsored his flight, and some companies sent $50 some $100 or
more. Through the generosity of the sponsors all his flight time
and incidentals over the two weeks were covered. He soloed July 14,
1998 and received the Canadian tradition of having a bucket of
water dumped on him.
Jamail came back to the states and the following week left for
his second Tour of Duty at Oshkosh. "That's where my life really
During a break from his Young Eagles duties, Jamail wandered
over to the Cessna booth and began chatting with one of the
employees there. When she heard about Jamail's Canada adventure she
introduced him to Jane McIntire, then Vice-President of Corporate
Communications at Cessna. The following day, McIntire had Jamail on
stage at a press conference speaking about his Young Eagles
experiences and his Canada trip.
Fear held no sway on this fourteen year old as he spoke to the
huge group of people, many who held high positions in aviation,
including John and Martha King of King Video, members from every
aviation trade publication, EAA President Tom Poberezny as well as
the Cessna Chairman and Vice-Chairman. At the time, the influential
power in the audience was unknown to Jamail; his focus was "having
an opportunity to talk about the Young Eagles program." After his
Canada experience, he realized how fortunate he'd been with the
sponsorships and the help he'd received. "I really need to help out
as much as I can to try to get more people to have the experiences
(Wednesday, we wrap up this look at Jamail Larkins'
incredible aviation journey. Please join us! --