An Aviation Student with her Head in the Clouds

Posted: March 19, 2018 | Author: Kayla Centeno | Read Time: 3 minutes

Jessica LarsenJessica Larsen, a freshman aviation student and Salt Lake City native, has always looked to the sky for inspiration. After receiving a helicopter ride for her 14th birthday, Larsen was hooked on flying as soon as she left the ground.

Every birthday following, instead of “normal gifts”, Larsen would ask her parents for introductory flight lessons to start her aviation education as early as possible. After high school graduation, she wanted to get her private pilot license so she could fly a small, personal aircraft by herself. Earning this privilege, however, was no simple matter. It takes time, dedication and a whole lot of dollar signs to make it happen.

Through her determination and love for flying, she completed all the requirements to receive her private pilots license. On her first solo flight from Heber City to Delta and back, her knowledge of flying was put to the test as she experienced her first real emergency.

“I was flying for about 30 minutes after departing from Delta and was about to call the Salt Lake Center for a ‘flight following’ when smoke started coming into the cockpit from the engine,” said Larsen. “I had been taught the procedure and checklist to follow in case of a fire and knew what to do, but I have to admit, I was terrified. Luckily, I was close to Nephi, which happened to have a small airport, and I was able to locate the runway and execute a successful landing. It just shows you how important training is and following procedure. You never know what could happen.”

Wanting to continue her education and love for flying, Southern Utah University was a natural choice for Larsen. A big reason SUU stole her heart was the new fleet of Cirrus aircraft she could learn and practice on. Larsen raves about SUU and is more than happy with her decision to become a Thunderbird.

Being a few months into the aviation program, Larsen has already landed the Aviation Mechanic Internship at the Cedar City Airport. Only a handful of students have the privilege to participate in this internship where they shadow and work directly with aircraft mechanics. Attention to detail and complete focus is critical for the internship. Only the best of the best are selected to participate.

“This has been an awesome opportunity to learn more about the aircraft we're flying,” said Larsen. “It's great as a pilot to be able to get into the airframe and the engine of a plane and see how everything really works.”

Larsen has thrived under the influence of her teachers and instructors. Lee Shermann, a fixed-wing instructor, says, "Jessica Larsen is an excellent student. She is intelligent, hard-working, and has a true passion for aviation - all qualities that we look for in our pilots. I enjoy watching her progress and look forward to her development as a professional pilot."

Aviation classes differ significantly from regular classes on campus. Students can’t even think about getting into an aircraft without diligently studying and preparing beforehand. Safety is SUU’s ultimate goal, so students are held to the highest standard, so they are focused, prepared, and aware while flying.

Larsen, along with all aviation students, is required to be evaluated on things like how many hours of sleep they got, when the last time they ate was, and other safety information they are required to know before even stepping foot into an aircraft. Staying up late and cramming information in does not cut it in the aviation department. Larsen takes her studies very seriously and has little room to slack off.

“I’m a 19-year-old being trusted with a high tech aircraft, there’s a lot on the line if I’m not prepared and completely focused,” she says.

Larsen dreams of becoming a tour pilot for flights over Alaska or the Grand Canyon, flying skydivers, transporting cargo or even training to be an aerial firefighter. With so many options in the industry, she doesn't mind what career path she takes, she just knows she will be happy as long as she’s in the sky.

Tags: Student Blog School of Business Aviation

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