Passing the torch
We all meet youthful aspiring pilots. For many it’s a passing interest, but now and then we encounter young people whose aviation knowledge and enthusiasm mark them as exceptional.
Gian Jacuzzi messaged me on Facebook last year about becoming a pilot. He’d gotten the bug at an airshow, and regaled me with photos of his favorite airplanes. I helped the 13-year-old enroll in “AOPA Av8rs,” and briefed him on EAA’s Young Eagles program and Air Academy summer camps. I also introduced Civil Air Patrol, where he might affordably solo in gliders as young as 14. He in turn asked about my piloting, and the Flying Carpet. In the process, we discovered that we share the same birthday.
Shortly after Christmas, Gian messaged me asking about university aeronautical programs. After answering, I casually asked about his holiday vacation.
“Truthfully,” he said, “there’s been a lot of pressure here. My mom, sister Nina, and myself just moved to Florida with nothing but 3 suitcases of clothes and essentials. So we didn’t have much money or time to celebrate the holidays. We spent most of our current money on airline tickets. We lived in a hotel for two weeks but it was expensive and we were running out of money. We considered going into a shelter but met some kind people and are staying in their house while my mom finds a job.”
I asked how his mother was holding up. “She has lots of hope and is very motivated. Nina and I are very proud of her.” There was no hint of sadness or frustration, but clearly this family had suffered a bleak Christmas. Yet even among those trials Gian found a bright spot.
“The good thing was we flew here in a 747! I got to see the cockpit, and the pilot and first officer were both fascinated by my passion for aviation!” Spontaneously I made an offer: “Ask your mom if she’d be comfortable with Jean and me buying you a flying lesson. You deserve to do something special after all you’ve been through.” …
READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE FLYING CARPET COLUMN, “TOMORROW’S PILOT.” (Allow a moment for the article to load.)
Top photo: Gian Jacuzzi takes the controls for the first time. Middle photo: Maribel Russo and Nina Jacuzzi, with CFI Yogini Modi and Gian Jacuzzi at Orient Flight School, Homestead Airport, Florida. Bottom photo: Nina Jacuzzi celebrates her brother Gian’s first lesson. SEE MORE PHOTOS HERE!
(This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine.)
PS: Check out some exciting followup on this column by my friend and AOPA Flight Training magazine editor, Jill Wood Tallman.
©2015 Gregory N.Brown