The following article appeared in todays “NEIGHBORS” section of the Miami Herald. It was the cover story, and pictured the young pilot in his Cirrus
Posted on Thu, Feb. 26, 2004
CUTLER RIDGE MIDDLE SCHOOL
Young pilot inspires kids
Jamail Larkins, the country’s youngest air show pilot at 20, travels throughout the country giving speeches at schools and motivating students to consider aviation careers.
By ADRIANA CORDOVI
You’re 2,000 feet above the ground in a four-seater airplane and suddenly . . . bam!
The plane drops 300 feet.
Your arms go up in the air trying to feel for anything to grab onto. The air pressure feels like it’s slapping you in the face, tugging at your chest, and 30 seconds seems more like an hour.
Then your pilot, Jamail Larkins, calmly looks over at you and smiles with reassurance.
Somehow, you feel safe – even if he’s only 20 years old. It helps that he’s the country’s youngest air show pilot.
Larkins, an aviation business student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, takes weekend trips across the country giving presentations at different schools to get students motivated about careers in the aviation industry.
He also gives people a taste of what he does up in the air by taking guests on plane rides.
‘‘You doing OK?,’’ he asks a guest as he balances out the plane again and explains that the aerobatics move he just pulled, called a ‘‘stall,’’ is supposed to give passengers a floating sensation.
For Larkins, stalls, steep turns, loops and spins are all part of his bag of tricks.
‘‘It’s just the biggest thrill you can ever experience,’’ he said of the kind of flying he does.
The young pilot took his first plane ride, apart from commercial flights, when he was 12 through the Experimental Aircraft Association Young Eagles program – which is aimed at getting young people fired up about flying.
In Larkins’ case, it worked. Right away he was hooked.
‘‘Being up in an airplane like that, there’s just nothing else like it,’’ he said.
By the time he was 14, Larkins had his student pilot’s license in Canada, and at 16 he got his license in the United States.
He also has some certifications in commercial and aerobatic flying.
Friday, he spoke at Cutler Ridge Middle School as part of a Black History Month assembly.
Larkins is doing a 20-city visit called the DreamLaunch Tour.
He calls the presentation ‘‘Navigating the Journey of Life,’’ and he applies the techniques that pilots use daily to life situations that students encounter.
And speaking is something Larkins also excels at. He’s the national spokesman for two aviation organizations: the EAA Vision of Eagles Program, which promotes possibilities available in the industry to aviation enthusiasts; and for Careers in Aviation, an organization that provides aviation opportunities to young people.
He made an impression on the Cutler Ridge students.
‘‘He was great. I was very into it,’’ said Pharah Derose, a sixth-grader at Cutler Ridge Middle School. ``He’s young, and I was shocked that he’d already been flying.’’
Faculty at the school said that’s what they found most impressive about the visit.
Since Larkins is young, the students could relate to him and they could get motivated to follow their dreams, like Larkins did, and succeed at them.
‘‘I think it was all terrific. The fact that he is young really made it an outstanding thing,’’ said sixth-grade teacher Theonie Beasley. ``When you’re that age, anyone who comes in and makes an impact can really influence you. It influences students that if they continue to try, they can accomplish anything.’’
Once he’s done with his college classes on Thursdays, Larkins gets in his plane, a Cirrus SR20, and flies to the cities where he’ll speak to the kids.
Schools often hold essay contests in which the students write about what they think flight will be like in 100 years, and judges pick the best ones.
Winners get to go on flights with Larkins.
‘‘If I can show them how fun it is, then I think I’m doing a good job,’’ he said.