By Joshua Caldwell, EAA 1347705
I was born in 1983 in Idaho Falls, Idaho, while my dad was in the Navy and stationed at the Navy’s nuclear power plant. I was four when my dad left the Navy and began working at a nuclear power plant in southeast Alabama, where I grew up and currently live.
To get to and from our house, we would drive by the local hometown airport. I remember looking up as we drove by, hoping to catch a glimpse of an airplane flying. We would see airplanes, gliders, and occasionally a few people parachuting. This was always the highlight of my day. We would sometimes stop at the airport to watch a plane come in. I would watch the pilots gracefully come in and touch down, wondering if I would ever have the opportunity to do that. Every time I heard an airplane, I would imagine what it would be like to be behind the controls.
I grew up around construction; houses, cars, cabinets, model cars, and model airplanes. This is what drove me to take a drafting class my sophomore year of high school. This class grew my passion for designing construction projects which led me to my current career. I was the president of the Drafting Club my junior and senior year of high school. I have worked for the past 13 years as a CAD Technician in the Aviation group at Barge Design Solutions, an Architectural/Engineering firm. Some of my responsibilities are making sure all of our projects are within the requirements of the FAA’s Design Circulars. I have worked on many projects for our airport clients. Some of which include runway/taxiway extensions, apron expansions, new terminal buildings, airfield lighting, signage, and marking projects. I had the opportunity to be on the design team for a new airport. For the past three years, I have been the lead designer for all airfield electrical and marking projects. Working on airport projects has kept my dream of becoming a pilot alive.
In October 2018, I volunteered at a client’s fly-in. After walking around and speaking with some of the pilots, I realized that this dream was something I had to pursue. I became a member of the local EAA chapter and have volunteered as much as I could. I really enjoyed helping coordinate the flights at a Young Eagles rally. Seeing the smiles when kids came back in from their flight was extraordinary.
There are several moments throughout my journey to obtain my private pilot certificate that I will never forget and will always cherish. I remember being excited, nervous, and anxious the first time I got in the left seat at the controls. I knew right after takeoff that this was something I wanted. My love of flying grew after each lesson. I was ecstatic when I landed without any help from my instructor. I was a ball of nerves when I was sent out on my first solo, but my instructor knew I was ready for this step. I was able to complete three successful landings that day. After my solo flight, I was excited to get started on my cross countries and see some amazing scenery.
After learning the required maneuvers with my instructor and meeting the FAA requirements, my instructor endorsed my logbook for me to take my checkride. The oral portion of my check ride went very well. My DPE was amazing and had a way of making me feel comfortable and unjudged about any of my answers. The practical portion was supposed to be done immediately after the oral, but the ceilings were lower than anticipated. We had to reschedule. After a few weeks, we were able to schedule the practical portion of the checkride. The practical portion went great and I received my temporary certificate on September 26, 2020. After the final landing, I taxied to the apron, parked, and shut the plane down. The DPE looked over at me and said “Congratulations” A giant weight was lifted from my shoulders. I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day and was on cloud nine! I am now the secretary of my local EAA chapter.
Being the recipient of the Richard R. Harper Memorial Scholarship was an amazing opportunity. This scholarship allowed my focus to be on knowledge and skills needed to fly safely and responsibly instead of the financial aspect of this journey. It allowed me to fly more often than what I could have afforded on my own and fly longer lessons. I am extremely blessed to have been given this opportunity from EAA.