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Filing a New Flight Plan

Kevin Garland arrived at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus as a freshman in fall of 2008, the height of the Great Recession. It’s no surprise he ended up at Embry-Riddle, he’d been attracted to aviation since he was six years old when his grandfather introduced him to Radio Control Aircraft (R/C). Naturally, he chose to major in flight. He also selected minors in air traffic control and unmanned aircraft systems. At that time, unmanned aircraft studies were just being introduced to college curriculum. In fact, Embry-Riddle was the first to offer the major that began accepting students into the program in unmanned aircraft systems science in the fall of 2011, just a year before Kevin’s scheduled graduation. But he saw the opportunity in the rapidly expanding field and modified his plan.

When he started college, he had already achieved much success in the world of R/C having soloed when he was just seven years old. By the time he was a senior, he was ranked 4th in Advanced Class his region and had secured a variety of sponsors to support his competitions nationally. He continued his R/C flying at Embry-Riddles part of the R/C Club with a team made up of students majoring in aerospace engineering, communication and unmanned aircraft. Kevin changed his major to aeronautics, a move that gave him added flexibility for gaining minors.

But he says these competitions are about more than winning, they are also about inspiring young people. As a college student, he enjoyed visiting high schools, like Griffin High in his home state of Georgia, and the kids who attend Youth Masters R/C competition where Kevin helps out each year.

Kevin's niece - keeping the family inspiration going

Kevin’s niece – keeping the family inspiration going

Kevin’s final student blog after graduation relates the plans he has for the future: move back home, finish his certified flight instructor rating to become a flight instructor and build flight time, land a job in air traffic control and keep competing in R/C. But that’s not how the future panned out for Kevin, and he’s happy about that for a number of reasons. Let’s ask him about where life took him and where he is today.

How did you land your job at Latitude Engineering?
After completing my degree at the end of the Summer of 2012 I visited the Embry-Riddle Daytona campus in November to see a few friends. While visiting I stopped and spoke to a few of my past professors. Mr. Ted Beneigh who was one of my UAS professors mentioned about a job in Yuma, AZ working for Latitude Engineering. He gave me their contact information (still have that piece of paper today!) That night I emailed Latitude my resume and the next week I heard from them. They mention I basically met all the criteria and they wanted me to fly out to Yuma the next day to do an in-person interview. The interview went great and when I landed back in Atlanta I got a voicemail saying I had been selected for the job and was going to start the first of the year in 2013. Without the help of Professor Beneigh I may have never found this great opportunity.
What is your position and job duties?
 From 2013 to late 2015 I worked in Yuma, AZ as a contract R&D Test Pilot for the NAVAIR Program flying the Tiger Shark UAV, which is a 500lb 20-foot wing span UAV. For this particular job I tested new software code, new payloads to be used overseas, and testing new parts for the aircraft itself. I have earned more than 900 hours flying this platform over those three years in Yuma, AZ. My contract with that program ended and late 2015 I moved the Commercial Side of UAVs flying for the BNSF FAA Pathfinder Program working with Latitude.  I am currently a Company representative supporting Latitude’s Hybrid Quadcopter Aircraft. This is a VTOL (virtual take-off and landing) aircraft which will be used to support BNSF’s train operations. My roles for this position include doing test flights on the aircraft, teaching new students how to fly the aircraft for BNSF’s operations, and to fix any issues with the aircraft in the field if there is a problem. The FAA Pathfinder project is dealing with BVLOS operations.  Fun fact! Embry-Riddle has purchased Latitude Engineering’s HQ-40 Aircraft.

 

VTOL - work in progress

VTOL – work in progress

Do other Embry-Riddle alumni work at Latitude?
As of right now no one else from Embry-Riddle works with Latitude Engineering. Alumni are, however working with the same BNSF Pathfinder project working for AUV Flight Services. I am hoping to attract more alumni to Latitude Engineering as it is an awesome company to work for. Where else can you skate board around the office and rip stick around the workbenches?

Are you still competing?
Even with my busy schedule I still compete in aerobatic flying with model aircraft. I still try to make a few competitions each year along with performing airshows at local and regional events.
My main sponsor currently is Futaba / Hobbico. A few other sponsors are Flight Power Batteries, Ohio Model Products, Smart-Fly R/C, B&E Graphix, Spot-On R/C and my newest sponsor is Ready Made R/C.

Do you spend much time flying the old-fashioned way – in the sky?
Flying? I honestly don’t know when I am not flying! I guess when I sleep. I am constantly flying manned and unmanned aircraft along with model aircraft. As for manned flying, I try to get up a few times every month to stay current. I am very fortunate that part of my job is flying manned aircraft for unmanned flight testing. I also have been very fortunate to be able to fly my girlfriend’s family plane which is a Cessna 182. Brenna (my girlfriend) and I have been dating two years now and she enjoys flying as much as I do. I have put on an extra 300 hours since we started dating in their Cessna-182. I say I am very LUCKY! Just last year I completed my Certified Flight Instructor rating and later this year I plan on completing my CFII.


How about your personal life?
During the spring time in 2013 I was out flying R/C aircraft at the local model aircraft field in Yuma, AZ. An older gentleman walked up to me and notice the hat I was wearing was an ERAU hat. He also noticed my airplane had an Embry-Riddle decal on it. He mentioned his granddaughter Brenna was interested in going to college either at ERAU in Prescott or UND. I gave my personal opinion and he wanted my phone and email address for her to contact me. Brenna later emailed me and asked me a few questions about the University. I personally did not know much about the Prescott campus as I went to the Daytona campus, but I answered the questions to the best of my ability. She later mentioned she chose ERAU in Prescott and she was starting in the Fall of 2013. We talked over the phone and via emails for nearly a year till we actually met in person in Spring time of 2014. We really got along as we shared a lot of things together. We have been on many adventures in her parents Cessna 182. We have flown across the country from Yuma, AZ to Atlanta, Georgia several times along with flying to her hometown from Prescott, AZ to Alden, IA. We have also flown into Oshkosh together and Sun N Fun. Other great trips were flying to Telluride, CO, Catalina Island, and to see the Arches in Utah. Even though we graduated from two different campuses we both worked great as a flight crew. She graduated from the Prescott campus back in December of 2015 and she now has a job as a First Officer for Boutique Airlines flying a PC-12.
Words of advice?
I would like to thank my family for supporting me all of these years. My parents always worried about the money we spent on flying r/c aircraft during my years living at home. The hobby is not cheap, but I was very fortunate enough to have my parents help out when I was younger. Today my parents said their investment in my hobby paid off, because I have landed a dream job of mine of flying Unmanned Aircraft. The person I would like to thank the most is my Grandfather. He is the one that introduced me to this hobby and taught me how to fly mode aircraft. Without his help there is no telling what I would be doing as for a career today. Model Aircraft, I feel, is a great starting point for anyone to get into the field of aviation. Let’s put it this way. My first flight in a manned aircraft the Instructor never had to take the controls from take-off to landing. After landing my instructor looked at me and said “are you ready to solo” Of course he was joking, but he could tell the skills I learned from flying r/c aircraft transferred to my manned flying skills.

Kevin and Granddad

Kevin and Granddad

Taking the Scenic Route to the NTSB

When Pete came to Embry-Riddle as a freshman in fall of 2009, his goal after graduation was to be a pilot, a dream he’d had since he was in first grade. But it wasn’t long until he recognized his love of aviation would be better served in a business role, so he changed his major to business administration.

“My internship at Tweed New Haven Regional Airport opened my eyes to this and made me realize flying wasn’t the only way I could be actively, hands-on involved in aviation every day,” he says in his introductory student blog.

He began writing the blog as a sophomore and, by that time, was well on his way to achieving his college graduation goals. He’d began working in Airport Operations at Daytona Beach International Airport almost 30 hours per week. In addition, he earned his Private Pilot’s Certificate, Instrument Rating, made Honor Roll, published a blog and articles for various online outlets, was certified in Aircraft Rescue & Firefighting, and had organized large events including an air show. Pretty impressive stuff – but that was just the beginning.
pete tbird

Prospective students followed Pete’s adventures at RiddleLifeFlorida where he shared his Embry-Riddle experiences of plane spotting, day trips to Disney, and work stories. One of the highlights was working during the Daytona 500 NASCAR races and supporting the United States Air Force Thunderbirds, the more than 250 corporate aircraft that fly in and out during the event, and even celebrities like Fergie.

Fast forward to 2016 and we find Pete about to begin his third year of law school and at the NTSB working as a Law Clerk. How did he get there? Let’s ask him.
pete

The last Riddle blog you wrote was in 2011. Where did life take you from there?

Well, somewhat comically, not three days after graduation from Riddle I began working in my new job at Orlando International Airport. I was given a rare opportunity for someone only 22 years old due to the amount of experience that I had developed to be an Airfield Operations Specialist at one of the largest airports in the world. I still credit my experiences at Embry-Riddle in addition to my work experience for getting me there. It was truly a great experience to be responsible for something as big as Orlando International on a day-to-day basis.

While I was at Orlando, I decided that it would be a good idea to continue my education, so I began working on a Master’s of Science degree in Criminal Justice at the University of Central Florida on a part-time basis. In doing this, and in the work I was doing at the airport, I uncovered an interest in the law, specifically in aviation law. So, I took the LSAT and applied to law schools, ultimately selecting the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University in Arlington, VA. Following my first year of law school, I was lucky enough to do an internship with the Federal Aviation Administration in their Chief Counsel’s office. Following my second year of law school, and presently, I am working in the General Counsel’s office of the National Transportation Safety Board as a law clerk. Then, I will complete my last year of law school, take the Bar exam, and be an attorney working in the aviation industry in some capacity.

How did you choose a grad school?

I started my graduate studies at UCF largely due to its proximity to work, and also because of their criminal justice program that is well respected in the industry. In choosing Scalia Law, I was primarily focused on attending a Top 50 law school in close proximity to Washington, DC and the federal government. Ultimately, that proximity has allowed me to obtain a great deal of exposure with the government and to work/intern there during the school year, while students at many other schools only have the opportunity to participate in internships with the federal government during the summers.

How did Embry-Riddle help you prepare for and transition to grad school?

Riddle definitely prepared me for grad school in the way that the professors structured their classes and assigned projects. The Riddle requires students to be strategic in their time management and planning, while also teaching students how to think rationally and logically. These skills are imperative for success in law school. You need to be able to process information quickly and accurately, and you need to be able to budget your time almost perfectly, especially in the first year of law school. Additionally, the Aviation Law course that I took at my law school was more of a review than anything else as a result of the coursework from the College of Business. This allowed me to excel above the other students in that class.

What was your grad school experience like?

It is still ongoing, that is for sure! As most people know, the first year of law school is tough. You are assigned hundreds of pages of reading a night, legal writing projects, and you are also randomly subject to being called on in class to discuss the material (the “Socratic method.”) It really left no free time to do much of anything else. The second year was much easier, and I was able to get involved on the Trial Advocacy Team, continue my internship at the FAA, and even take on a part-time job to make a little money. The third year of law school is more outside the classroom work and less school: I will only have class two days a week this semester and will be working the remaining days. All in all though, the skills I have learned are very helpful and useful, and I appreciate the experience very much.

Did you ever imagine you’d find yourself working for the NTSB?

No, I don’t think so! I was always interested in accident investigations and wanted to take those classes at Riddle, but I was never able to do so unfortunately. I did not think that I would ever be working in a legal capacity for the Board, however, that is for certain. I am enjoying it very much thus far!

What are some of the legal issues specific to aviation?

There are many legal issues in aviation today, probably the most well-known of which involve the air service controversies that have been occurring with foreign carriers such as Emirates and Qatar, and US-flag carriers. Foreign carriers must be permitted by the Department of Transportation to serve destinations in the United States, allowing them to compete with US carriers on the same routes. However, some US carriers have claimed that they cannot compete with these foreign carriers because those carriers are subsidized by their respective country’s governments and subject to those countries’ laxer labor laws, resulting in significantly lower overhead and the ability to charge far cheaper fares.

However, aviation law issues stretch further than one might imagine to include tort litigation (personal injury), enforcement, regulatory concerns, and more. Personally, my favorite area is tort litigation as I love being in the courtroom. Ultimately, I would love to be able to litigate cases involving aircraft crashes in court. The utility of my Embry-Riddle background and technical knowledge is immeasurable when it comes to this type of law.

Do you still spend time flying?

Yes, I try to. The Washington, DC airspace is somewhat tricky, but I have found an airport nearby that has nice rentals and is not too hard to get to. When time permits, I love to fly around and check out the landscape of Virginia.

Are there many ERAU grads working with you?

There are, actually, but not directly in the General Counsel’s office. Many of the investigators went to Embry-Riddle, and, in fact, one of the presidentially-appointed Board Members (Robert Sumwalt) has a Master’s Degree from Embry-Riddle.

Advice for students attracted to Embry-Riddle?

Prospective students? If you have even the slightest interest that you want to work in aviation in any capacity, go to Embry-Riddle. Take it from me. The opportunities that I have had have all been related to my degree from Embry-Riddle. The people you meet will connect you with jobs for the rest of your life. It is worth every penny you spend on your degree to go to Riddle. I would not be where I am today if I did not go to Embry-Riddle. In short, DO IT. The education is fantastic and will prepare you for whatever you choose to do in life. Additionally, going to college in Daytona Beach is an experience that I reminisce about every day, and you will absolutely love it yourself.

Current students? Think outside the box. I came into Riddle with tunnel vision that I wanted to be an airline pilot, but look where my career took me due to one internship. Try a few different things and see what you like. Don’t give up, even when it gets hard. It will all be worth it. Lastly, enjoy every minute of it, because it goes by so fast. But, know that the friends you make at Riddle will be your friends for life. Virtually all of my best friends are people who I met during college.

Students interested in similar careers can contact Pete at  jgreco@gmu.edu

Blasting off into Space Operations

Calvin Baker was one of 750 Embry-Riddle students to earn his diploma this May, and one of the first to earn the Commercial Space Operations bachelor’s. Now he’s off to Virgin Galactic to start his career in Quality and Regulatory Compliance for the organization. He’ll be working with SpaceShipTwo and potentially LauncherOne, his dream job with his dream company in his dream location.

Calvin's graduation cap included his two tassels, one for each degree, and was painted with a silhouette of SpaceShipTwo and his iris (in the style of the Virgin Galactic logo).

Calvin’s graduation cap included his two tassels, one for each degree, and was painted with a silhouette of SpaceShipTwo and his iris (in the style of the Virgin Galactic logo).

How did Calvin land his dream job? Hard work, dedication, making adjustments to meet his goals and participating in internships that provide valuable experience. And he landed not just one, but two internships while a student. We asked Calvin to tell us more about his experiences.

Can you provide some highlights about your internships?
I worked hard to acquire two internships during my time at Embry-Riddle. My first internship took place at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) in Washington, D.C. Interning at AST was by far the best job I have ever had. When I went into work, I was treated as a full-time employee, not an intern. That meant I wasn’t getting coffee; I was helping to evaluate licenses, experimental permits, and safety approvals. I attended weekly meetings about Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites and was even able to attend a quarterly meeting for SpaceX. I would greatly enjoy working at AST after graduation.

My second internship was also in Washington, D.C., this time at the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF). CSF is a trade organization, lobbying for the commercial space industry on Capitol Hill. I spent my summer writing congressional hearing reports and newsletters, graphic design for logos and promotional materials, and analyzing the NTSB findings of the October 2014 Virgin Galactic accident in regards to human factors and zero-fault tolerant systems.

Both internships taught me a lot about the space industry and the Washington, D.C., space culture.

Where are you from originally?
I am originally from Delton, Michigan.

What attracted you to Embry-Riddle?
I visited the Daytona Beach campus twice before beginning my freshman year in August 2010. The first time, I fell in love with the campus. The second time, I just had to see the campus again before attending.

Did you start off as a dual degree student?
As with many students, I started off as an Aerospace Engineer. I came to realize it wasn’t what I wanted to do, so I became a Communication major due to my experiences in comms-related courses. In my senior year, fall 2013, I added Commercial Space Operations (CSO) and extended my stay at Embry-Riddle.

Can you tell us a bit about your choices of Communication and CSO?
I chose the Embry-Riddle Communication degree program specifically because of a single faculty member: Professor M.B. McLatchey in the Humanities & Communication Department. I was a notoriously poor writer in high school, with one instance of me rewriting a paper four or five times to ultimately receive a C. However, after taking a couple courses with Professor McLatchey, something just clicked with me and I became a much better writer and communicator. I went on to take nearly every course she offered. This new found skill was compounded by many other great faculty members in that department such as Steve Master, Dr. Stephen Zeigler, Dr. Rachel Friedman, and Stephen Kampa. If you ever want to truly enjoy your coursework, get a degree in Communication from Embry-Riddle. The faculty is remarkable.

I was drawn to the CSO program because it meant a different way to get involved with space after leaving the Aerospace Engineering program. I was no longer chained to a career of marketing and public relations; I could use the skills gained through CSO, in addition to my communication skills, and enter into the space industry performing launch licensing and operations. I was attracted to CSO because it meant I didn’t have to merely talk about people doing great things in the space industry; I could be one of those people doing great things in the space industry.

Your capstone project Mapping Mars’ Moons (M3) addresses many advantages of resource extraction in space. What do you see as the greatest potential and what may be the greatest risk?

The greatest potential is finding resources with enough monetary value to eclipse the GDP (gross domestic product) of an entire country or even the entire world. In our project, we estimated that just one of the moons of Mars could house resources valued at over $10 quintillion, which is 10 with 18 zeroes behind it. This number was calculated based on the cost to launch the resources from Earth and get them to Martian orbit.

The greatest risk is finding out there are no resources at all or that it will cost infinitely more money to extract, refine, and make use of the resources.

We won’t know for sure until we take the risk to send a mission, manned or unmanned, to find out if all of our estimations are accurate.

What do you see as some of the more important careers that will be in demand in the commercial space industry?

Because the industry is just starting out, still designing all of their satellites/vehicles/etc., everyone wants engineers. However, I believe that will change as the commercial space industry matures. I believe it will reach a point when the commercial space industry mirrors the commercial aviation industry. Imagine when you can go online and reserve your ticket to go to space, set up a payload delivery to the Moon, or order some resources for your spacecraft after takeoff. As the commercial space industry matures, you need people to know how to operate in that environment. You won’t need engineers, you’ll need people who understand all aspects of the space industry, which is where I believe CSO will fit quite nicely.

Who are the most important companies and organizations in the commercial space industry?
There are companies taking part in many different areas of the industry: suborbital-trajectory tourism, reusable orbital launches, telecommunications, and so on. In my opinion, I love what Blue Origin and SpaceX are doing in regards to reusability; however, they are not competitors (yet) because Blue Origin is perfecting reusability for a suborbital vehicle and SpaceX is focusing on orbital launch reusability. In terms of tourism, Virgin Galactic just announced their new vehicle, dubbed Unity. Hopefully they’ll be flying paying customers by 2017. That would be a huge step forward for space tourism.

In other words, there are so many companies trying to make their impact in the commercial space industry, that it’s best to say who the leaders are in each area. I only touched on a few above, but it’s safe to say that I’m rooting for anyone who has a business model that includes space activity.

During your studies at Embry-Riddle, what types of extra-curricular activities did you participate in?
Nearly all of my extra-curricular activities included jobs I had, which I made sure would some how assist my professional career. My jobs included being a technical writer at the Florida NextGen Test Bed, the Communications Manager for the Embry-Riddle EcoCAR team, and now the Student Success Coordinator in the Applied Aviation Sciences Department in the College of Aviation. All of these jobs were related to the University and also taught me an enormous amount of valuable skills that complemented my coursework.

As far as student organizations go, I was momentarily in the surf club despite having no idea how to surf. I spent over two and a half years on the Embry-Riddle EcoCAR team, helping to promote the team to the campus, public, and industry. EcoCAR helped me hone all of my communication skills through weekly and monthly deliverables. Lastly, I enjoyed being a part of the Space Sciences, Policy, and Operations Club (SSPOC), which caters to students from the Commercial Space Operations degree program.

Calvin receiving his degrees from the Dean of the College of Aviation, Dr. Dan Macchiarella.

Calvin receiving his degrees from the Dean of the College of Aviation, Dr. Dan Macchiarella.