Underwood a pilot in the making - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Community Focus

Underwood a pilot in the making

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Posted: Saturday, November 27, 2010 9:30 pm | Updated: 12:48 pm, Tue Mar 15, 2011.

A Horizon Community Learning Center student is realizing his passion for aviation and is seeing rewards come from it.

Darin Underwood, 17, was named one of six finalists in the third annual Continuing the Legacy in Aviation program. The contest, put on by Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. and sponsored by Southwest Airlines, invited students from across the United States to write a 500-word essay. They were asked to describe the accomplishments of two people who changed aviation history, and describe why they are interested in the subject.

"I have always had an interest in aviation," Underwood said. "When I was younger, my grandparents lived near (Los Angeles International Airport). I would be playing basketball or something and then a plane would fly over. I would just stop right there on the court and stare up and watch it."

For being named a finalist, Underwood, a Lavine resident, visited the Southwest Airlines headquarters at the Dallas Love Field in Texas. The finalists toured the facility, control tower, and the Frontiers of Flight Museum. As part of the reward, Underwood got to take control in the Southwest flight simulator.

"It felt really real, it put me in awe," he said. "We had to use the different tools that the aircrafts had. And I got to experience an engine going out."

A senior at HCLC, Underwood plans to purse a degree in aviation. He said he is applying to colleges right now and is interested in the program at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

"They have a great program," he said.

Wherever he ends up, being named a finalist and the experiences that came with it will keep him motivated.

"It gave me more ambition to go out and fulfill my dream of becoming a pilot," Underwood said.

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