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04/12/2024 | News release | Distributed by Public on 04/13/2024 11:11

BU Student Aviator Soars to New Heights

BU Student Aviator Soars to New Heights

Brendon Jones (CAS'24), on the tarmac at Norwood Memorial Airport in Norwood, Mass., preparing to take a Cessna Skyhawk-often used to train student-pilots-for a spin.

Student Life

BU Student Aviator Soars to New Heights

Psychology major Brendon Jones (CAS'24) plans to attend flight school after graduating

April 12, 2024

Thanks to his dad's flight simulator, Brendon Jones could fly a plane before he could drive a car.

When Jones (CAS'24) was seven years old, his family moved from Washington, D.C., to Tunisia. His father, a US diplomat, passed down to him a love of flying through the flight simulator on his computer. While living in Tunisia, Jones spent hours a day mapping flights from all over the world, he says, and learning the ropes of plane controls. He also traveled frequently and immersed himself in diverse cultures-something he says has shaped who he is both as a person and as a pilot.

Living abroad, he says, "I could see how aviation connected people…it wasn't just about getting from point A to point B, but it was about connecting cultures, connecting identities, and meeting new people through that."

His first experience in a cockpit came when he was 12, soon after he returned to the United States.

He took a discovery flight, where aspiring pilots go up with an instructor who teaches them the ropes-takeoff, landing, and basic controls. He remembers clearly the first time he started a plane-the roar of the engine, the thrill of listening to aircraft control on his headset, feeling "limitless" in a way nothing else had ever made him feel.

It was love at first flight.

"Having the freedom of flight is something that's hard to explain," Jones says. "It's complete freedom, it's bliss, and I don't think it's something I can truly relate to many other things. "

Checking the Cessna's dashboard ahead of a test flight.

When he got home that day, he told his parents he wanted to continue taking flight lessons.

"This is the time for me to fly," he told them. By the time he turned 14, his dad was driving him to flying lessons at Maryland's Frederick Municipal Airport.

"I actually had no worries at all when I went up with him for the first time, seeing how well he flew the flight simulators and how well he did up in the air with his flight instructors " says his mother, Angela Paterson. "I mean, I was impressed."

In 2017, with his parents' support, the 13-year-old Jones decided to start working toward his private pilot's license. When he started, he was still looking at colleges and studying for his ACT exams. When he finished, it was August 2022 and he was a rising junior. He had come home from BU, where he studies psychology, and hunkered down in the library to spend hours preparing for the exam's written and oral portions.

"I saw my friends at home maybe four times the entire summer," Jones recalls. "That entire four-month period was dedicated to me just getting it done. When it came up to my exam in August, right before we had to come back to school, I was like, 'I'm ready to do this.'"

His flight exam took place a few weeks before he returned to BU. After passing his oral exam, he says, he got into a plane with the examiner, whose job was to scrutinize his every move.

"There's a point in time where you're flying and [the examiner] just cuts the engine and says, 'All right, well, show me how you can divert to an airport,'" Jones says. "In an event where that could happen, you have to know how to get out of the situation."

At the end of the four-hour flight, his instructor told him he'd passed with "flying colors."

Jones first started working on a private pilot's license in 2017, at age 13, and finished in 2022, as a rising junior at BU.

"I got back and walked into the flight school, and my parents were just waiting intently at the door, trying to see if I got it," Jones says. "I came out with the paper in my hand, holding it high, and everyone's clapping for me. It was an amazing, amazing experience, because you can finally say, 'I did it.'"

Outside the cockpit, Jones studies psychology. He landed on his major in part because living abroad made him curious about how humans interact, and his minors, in international relations and entrepreneurship and innovation, stem from a love of travel and a fascination with the behind-the-scenes operations of major airlines.

"The aviation community is extremely small, and being a Black individual can be hard because you really don't have many people around you that you can relate to," he says. "Going to BU taught me so much about the importance of creating a diverse community, where I can have people of various races all around me who are all trying to figure out what they want to do in life."

At BU, Jones balances his free time between being an admissions ambassador and first-chair trombonist in BU's Jazz Band. Despite all he does, his close friend Ashley Facey (COM'24) says that even though he enjoys being up in the clouds, Jones is still down-to-earth. "You would think it'd be easy for him to get lost in the sauce, but he's very humble at the end of the day," she says.

Still, when Jones graduates in May, his first order of business will be enrolling in flight school, with the aim of becoming a commercial pilot. It all goes back to the kind of world he sees when he's up in the air.

"In the sky, you can't see borders like you can on the ground," Jones says. "It gives you that freedom of knowledge and expression, to just be able to fly around."

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