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Mon, Jul 26, 2004

Defying Gravity (Part One)

Jamail Larkins: A Name To Remember

By Aleta Vinas

(This is the first of a three-part series on one of the most fascinating young people in aviation today. Many thanks to Aleta Vinas for putting together this exhaustive study of Jamail Larkins -- ed.)

The name Jamail Larkins may not yet ring a bell but it will – soon and for a very long time to come. At the ripe old age of 20 Jamail already has 650 hours of flight time in thirty-six different aircraft. That’s more types than most of us get to fly in our entire lives as pilots.

This young pilot's need for speed started around 1996 when he was about 12 years old. Neither of his parents or his elder sister were interested in or connected to the aviation industry. It seems a rogue aviation gene invaded Jamail's DNA and turned him toward the sky. "I had a growing passion for aviation but no clue as to what my first step would be."

He did know the intended result. Jamail wanted to be a 777 Captain for Delta Airlines. He'd spent hours on the Microsoft Flight Simulator his parents had bought for him yet the path to get to that 777 cockpit was still a bit hazy. Using the world of technology, Jamail sent out posts on a couple of aviation chat rooms on the internet.

Delta Airline Captain Jeff Bosonett replied to Jamail's query and gave him information about the Young Eagles program. Jamail contacted them and obtained a list of Young Eagles pilots who introduce youngsters to aviation by taking them up for their first flight. Picking an address he recognized, Jamail contacted the addressee, Wyman Fox. Although there had just been a Young Eagles gathering the prior weekend, Fox agreed to take young Jamail flying.

The "minor" detail remained of telling his parents what he'd done so they would sign the Young Eagles permission form for the flight. Lucky for aviation, his parents granted the request. Jamail's Young Eagles flight with Fox was June 29, 1996 in Fox's 1956 Cessna 172. "I remember doing that flight and when I first saw my house from a completely different view, I said this is what I want to do for the rest of my life."

Right after that flight, Jamail became a Young Eagles volunteer doing 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.

(We'll have more on Jamail's fight to solo before his 16th birthday, as well as his remarkable venture into airshow aviation, on Tuesday. Please stay tuned -- ed.)



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