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Sun, Jul 24, 2005

Catching Up With Jamail Larkins

EAA AirVenture Next On The Agenda

By ANN Correspondent Aleta Vinas

For most students, 'what I did on my summer vacation' consists of, maybe, some camping, swimming and visiting friends. If you're Jamail Larkins, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) student, one of the country's youngest airshow performers and FAA Ambassador of aviation and Aerospace Education your summer vacation would include much more.

How would you like to appear at EAA Air Venture and give talks at KidVenture, the museum and Air Academy Lodge, expand FAA Ambassador position to include aviation safety, plan Fall DreamLaunch Tour in donated Cirrus SR22 (give plane back at end of tour) and fly to England commercially to star in a movie - almost.

The word vacation is probably a misnomer but Larkins enjoys every minute of his hectic schedule.

EAA Air Venture in Oshkosh (WI) July 25th - 31st is next on Larkins' agenda. He has several programs where he will be speaking. At KidVenture he'll be speaking to young people on aviation and aerospace career opportunities.

His appearance on July 28th at Teacher's Day, along with Dick Rutan and Marion Blakey, is aimed at informing local educators how to apply aviation principles to math, science and technology classes. The Air Academy Lodge program will cover scholarship programs and programs in aviation to involve young people. In between his scheduled programs, Larkins will be holding ground school for Young Eagle rides. He'll also fly some of the Young Eagle flights in the Cirrus SR22 on loan from Cirrus Design.

Larkins will be appearing at the ERAU booth and the AeroShell booth. Then just in case that wasn't enough, he'll be announcing the winner of the Ride of a Lifetime contest. The winner of the contest and one parent will win an all expense paid trip to the Embry-Riddle Florida Skyfest Airshow in Daytona Beach (FL) October 28th -30th. Larkins will be with the winner for the weekend and give a behind the scenes tour of the airshow and a ride in his Christian Eagle II. Aerobatics included.

Another announcement at AirVenture will be by the FAA to formally announce the expansion of Larkins' role as Ambassador of Aviation and Aerospace Education. In addition to his current task of speaking to America's youth and teachers at many of the over 500 aviation education oriented events the FAA operates or co-sponsors, Larkins says he will begin "advocating aviation safety and pilots making the right decisions inside the cockpit, such as with the FAA Wings program and other safety initiatives that are currently being implemented by the FAA."

The new role will have Larkins speaking inside the industry, a challenge he "looks forward to." One of the items Larkins will focus on is "the technology advancements being implemented inside of the cockpit."

This includes glass cockpits, satellite weather along with FAA recommendations pilots can implement to make their flying safer. Larkins realizes the new advancements make for "a huge technology learning curve." He plans to use his own experiences to assist in the programs.

While most of Larkins' schedule is planned months in advance, toward the end of June he learned that in the movie business "things change drastically." What started in March with an e-mail from a movie director who had seen Larkins' appearance on Letterman ended up with Larkins' PR agent calling him in June to see if he could be on a plane to England the next day.

The movie about five young WWI pilots who volunteered for service prior to US involvement was to have Larkins in one of the lead roles. He was unable to allot the large chunk of time the filming would require, so the purpose of his trip was to double for one of the stars in the flying portions.

He met the cast and crew as they had just finished filming. David Ellison was playing one of the lead roles. Ellison was one of Sean D. Tucker's Stars of Tomorrow who performed at AirVenture in 2003. Larkins' film career was not meant to be at this time, the weather and difficulties with the Nieuport 17 aircraft replicas made the trip a washout.

With film career on hold and AirVenture just around the corner, Larkins has been trying to make some time to fly his Eagle to get back into aerobatic shape. He plans to make a few appearances at airshows later this season. He's currently scheduled to perform at Erie (PA) September 11 and 12, then the Macon County Airshow in Franklin (NC) October 22. He may also make an appearance at his hometown airshow in Augusta (GA) on October 15 and 16...

Larkins will be sandwiching these appearances in between engagements on his third DreamLaunch Tour which starts the end of August. ERAU, Jeppesen, Cox and Michelin are all back on board as sponsors to help Larkins share aviation opportunities with America's youth. Cirrus will be loaning Larkins an SR22 for the tour. Considering the time Larkins has spent in Cirrus SR20's and SR22's, it seems there should be a Jamail Larkins model available.

Although the fall tour schedule is established, Larkins makes it a point to mention that whenever possible, other schools and cities are added in if they are nearby a currently scheduled city. See the FMI link to send an e-mail to get a school on the schedule list.

While Larkins receives many thank you notes for his appearances, every now and then he'll hear a story that confirms that he is making a difference.

Late last year, the FAA and the Chicago Airport System hosted an aviation oriented essay contest entitled "Who has influenced your aviation career?" One young girl saw Larkins' Letterman spot and began flying.

When she turned 14, she emulated Larkins and traveled to Canada to solo at age 14. Says Larkins "It was enough to keep that interest sparked for a while until she turns 16." The young lady is also volunteering at her local airport.

When Larkins hears these stories, he knows "there is some impact happening." The biggest side benefit that Larkins sees coming from his DreamLaunch Tours and other appearances is showing a different side of the aviation community to mainstream America, "different from the accidents and airspace incursions that have become common on network television" Larkins says.

He also points to the "benefits that aviation provides the US economy as well as the difference that it makes in our everyday lives." Examples Larkins points to range from fresh cut flowers sent to a loved one overnight to the medevac flights that save lives daily.

Larkins stresses the positive side of aviation. He points out, "Aviation, when we think about it, has always accomplished the impossible." The public never believes it can be done, from the Wright Brothers to the Rutan Brothers. He wants to expose these great accomplishments to those outside of aviation.

"We have always been in the forefront of accomplishing the impossible and what mainstream America and the rest of the world sees as a weird dream, actually is just the beginning of one of aviation's next historical events."



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