A Dream has Become Reality For Aviation Student

Kemarie Jeffers

His adrenaline was pumping as he took the controls of Viking II, one of Elizabeth City State University’s training aircraft. At that moment, “dreams had become reality” for Kemarie Jeffers, a junior aviation program student.

“It was pretty crazy because I was flying an airplane my first lesson,” said Jeffers, recalling the moment he was told to take the controls.

Jeffers, a Henderson, North Carolina native, recently received his private pilot license thanks to the ECSU aviation program. It is, he says, a dream he’s held on to since elementary school.

Jeffers says it was in high school that he first began looking into options to become a pilot. There was an expensive private institution where he could train to become a commercial pilot, but he was concerned that he would not receive a bachelor’s degree.

Then he attended a college fair at a local high school. That’s where he learned of ECSU for the first time, and the aviation program.

“They told me that we’re the only university in the state to offer a degree and flight training,” he recalled.

It didn’t take much for Jeffers to chart his course. He had already decided he would spend his first two years at Vance-Granville Community College where he received an associate of arts degree, and from there he would transfer to ECSU.

ECSU’s flight training program is designed to give students the opportunity to soar above the clouds, obtain both a private and commercial pilot license, and earn their bachelor’s degree in aviation science. For students like Jeffers, the plan is to go on to work in the aviation industry as a commercial pilot.

And he has recent graduates to look to for inspiration. According to aviation professor, Orestes Gooden, two recent ECSU graduates, Corey Kellum and Andrew Register, will soon be wearing the wings of different commercial airlines, flying passengers from airport to airport.

But first, as with Jeffers now, those Viking pilots had to go through a series of trials to have the privilege to traverse the skies.

Jeffers describes the experience of learning to fly as surreal in some ways.  In the air, alone, it’s peaceful, he says. Jeffers describes the experience as “amazing, something that never gets old.”

 He says his first time at the controls he was nervous, but then his excitement and adrenaline kicked in and he was in charge.

“There was a lot of emotion,” he said. “I felt accomplished. I was living my dream. I wasn’t just talking about it anymore.”

Jeffers spent many hours learning to handle the controls in the sky. Eventually, he would learn to take off, something that can excite perhaps more than the serene sensation of gliding through the air, he said.

“That was a big adrenalin rush,” said Jeffers. “You go faster and faster and you’re feeling yourself rise. It was very intense.”

But as the saying goes, whatever goes up must come down. Jeffers also had to learn to land his plane.

“That was the hardest thing in my training,” he said. “There is a lot to consider.”

Jeffers had to line up his plane with the runway, check his airspeed and eventually bring the plane down so that the rear wheels touch and the front wheels ease down. It wasn’t, he said, a perfect first landing, but it was successful.

Eventually student pilots must also learn to fly solo.

Jeffers first went up with his instructor, learning the exercise he would complete alone, in the cockpit. When it was time to go it alone, he could feel his nerves as the plane went into full power and rose from the ground.

Since his solo test, Jeffers has flown alone many times. He’s made cross country trips as a part of his training, and now that he has his private license, he’s going to work on his instrument rating, learning to fly solely on the guidance of his flight instruments in the event of cloud cover and the like.

After that, while still a student at ECSU, Jeffers will earn his commercial pilot license.

“That allows you to fly for hire so at that point I could get a job,” he said.

Jeffers will graduate in December 2018. He says that in order to be hired as a commercial airline pilot, he will need 1,500 flight hours. The best way to get those hours, he says, is to teach flying.

He says he hopes to be a flight instructor at ECSU. Jeffers says being in the aviation program at ECSU is like being a part of a family. Everyone, he says, is looking out for one another.

“I love the program,” he said.

For more information about the aviation science program, visit the page here.