Cockpit and the business world: being a pilot influences your professional life
Editor’s note: This article is part of a month-long series celebrating Black History Month through aviation: February 1: African-American flight and space pioneers | February 4: Legacy Flying Academy | February 10: Why aren’t there more black pilots in the Air Force? | February 11: Jesse L. Brown | February 15: Meet four African Americans making a difference in aviation | February 18: From “Hidden Figures” to “Artemis” | February 22: Cal Poly Humboldt | February 25: Black Heritage Aviation
If you fly as a hobby, you may have found some of the pilot skills you learned in the cockpit useful in your non-aviation career. Sometimes it’s the confidence that comes with learning to fly, or the ability to prioritize and multi-task in flight under instrument flight conditions, that enables you to handle a particularly stressful situation at the time. work.
“In business, like in aviation, you have to make decisions,” says Tom Jackson, Jr., president of California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt. It’s doubtful, he says, that any decision made on the field at college is life or death, but he still finds himself thinking like a pilot.
“Being a pilot teaches you to plan for all eventualities,” he explains.
Jackson is the first African American to serve as president of Cal Poly Humboldt, whose campus is the northernmost campus in the California State University system. He has held the position since May 2019, coming to Northern California from Blackhills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota.
Jackson’s daughter Chandi, 20, is still back at Spearfish. Jackson and his wife Mona have a 1964 PA-30 Twin Comanche that they steal to visit him.
“The Comanche is my take-home plane,” Jackson says, noting that he also has two 1946 B85C Funks in a hangar at Spearfish.
“When I bought the hangar there were two Funks – one is still in pieces, the other has been fully restored by the gentleman I bought the hangar from. The Funk is the fun plane, the plane “goes flying and looking for things,” he says. “Funk is so much fun, so quiet, slow and comfortable. The twin takes me where I want to go.
Jackson’s interest in aviation began during his childhood in Seattle.
His father was an electrician in the Air Force, and after leaving the service he went to work for the city of Seattle. At the time, Boeing kept its headquarters in Seattle, and aviation dominated the culture of the region.
As a child, Jackson often looked up when an airplane passed overhead and wondered what it would be like to pilot one. Her father often brought home airplane toys, often models of Boeing airliners that flew around the yard and house.
“One weekend my dad took us to an airshow at Renton Airport. It was a small airport at the time. There were Boeing 707s and 737s on display and helicopters, and I realized I wanted to fly one day. I always watch the planes pass over my head. It’s true what is said: aviation is not in your blood; it’s in your soul.
Jackson’s passion for aviation was neck and neck with his passion for education.
He was the first in his family to graduate from college, earning an associate’s degree from Highline Community College in Des Moines, Washington, outside of Seattle. This was soon followed by a bachelor’s degree in business/personnel management from Southwest Minnesota State University; a Masters in Student Counseling/Personnel from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania; and a doctorate in education from the University of La Verne in Southern California. During this time, Jackson also served his country – he is a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve, Army National Guard, Texas State Guard, and United States Guard Reserve. ‘Indiana.
He made his first Jackson introductory flight from San Luis Obispo, California.
“I and some of my office mates saw a newspaper ad for introductory flights and decided to check it out,” he recalls. His real flight training began in the 90’s while living in Abilene, Texas.
“I trained at Elmdale Airpark (82TS) in Abilene. I started my training in a Piper Warrior, then I bought a Grumman Yankee to complete my training,” he recalled, adding that he has owned an airplane ever since.
He holds a private pilot certificate with single-engine, multi-engine and instrument ratings.
“I’m current and try to fly every week. It can be a challenge here because of the coastal climate. Keeping up to date with IFR can be a challenge because you have to go somewhere. I try to fly as often as possible,” he says, noting that he has around 2,800 hours logged.
For Jackson, the best part of training was being around other pilots. The worst moments were the checks, he jokes, adding that some days were more difficult than others.
“I was never afraid of falling from the sky,” he continues. “I was afraid of getting lost in a solo cross. My first solo cross country was from Abilene to Brownwood, Texas. It was 1998 and Microsoft had released Flight Simulator and I trained on that,” he laughs.
“The runway at Elmdale Airpark in Abilene…was 2,999 feet by 30 feet, and some pilots were afraid to land there. But after training there, going elsewhere seemed too big and too easy.
Today, Jackson’s logbook shows flights to airports on both coasts and the country in between, as well as trips to the Bahamas and Mexico.
“I think I’ve mastered the fear of getting lost,” he jokes.
One of his favorite aviation memories is when he took his wife, son and daughter to Florida in 2011 to watch the final space shuttle launch. Discovery. At the time, the family was living in Kentucky, so the flight to Florida was a day trip.
“The launch was planned, then postponed, then rescheduled, so we came back another day and saw the launch. It was definitely a to-do list item,” he says.
He is proud to note that his daughter is interested in aviation and is looking forward to joining the Air Force soon.
“She started flying with me when she was 9 months old,” he says. “Ideally, she would like to have her private pilot certificate before entering the Air Force, but finding a flight instructor and having good weather in South Dakota in the winter has been a challenge.”
Professionally, Jackson served as both an educator and administrator at several colleges in addition to Humboldt. He plans to continue adding to his aviation certificates, saying he also wants to pursue rotor wing certification. He would also like to acquire an airframe and powertrain certificate, as his time as a machinist in the Coast Guard gave him a love for turning keys.
“I would also like to get my certificate as a commercial pilot and maybe even a flight instructor,” he says, noting that the culture of aviation “a good pilot always learns” resonates with him, as do people who share this state of mind.
He had the experience of a student he mentored and instructed at a university becoming a flight instructor, which ultimately helped him gain his IFR rating.
“It was a coincidence,” he says. At the time, Jackson was teaching at Texas A&M and one of his students was a man named Philip Terry. He was a sophomore and a student pilot. They were together in the national guard and often talked about aviation.
“He went to Dallas to complete his training,” Jackson says. “He became CFI and my IFR instructor. He now flies for an international freight company.
Jackson says that flight instructors and pilots in general are like professors in colleges in that they have the opportunity to nurture someone’s interest and give them some knowledge, and maybe theirs. teach skills that change their life for the better, as well as improve the lives of those around them.
Jackson notes that his instructor’s intonation of “always flying the plane” helped him develop his self-confidence, an important attribute in the business world.
“Just as you must always continue to fly the plane, you must always continue to lead in the business world.”
And that’s what education is, he says, a business to shape the future.