Boyd soars high as flight team member

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Online Poster

By Frank Krolicki

Steve Boyd, senior in engineering and aviation, prefers spending his time in the clouds rather than being buried in the books.

Boyd is a member of the University flight team, and last month he won the overall top pilot award at the Region VIII National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA) Safecon flight competition.

Though Boyd said he has always been fascinated by flying, aviation was not his original education and career focus. He began college studying optometry in his hometown of Mattoon, Ill., and said he quickly knew it was not for him.

“I really didn’t like it because there was too much science involved,” Boyd said. “But then I transferred here and switched into engineering in addition to aviation, so I went right back into it.”

Boyd said he did not have any experience in aviation before he came to the University, but quickly got involved. October’s NIFA flight competition included events to test aviation skills such as numerous ground events, two landing competitions and three different flying competitions. This year’s competition took place at the University.

Boyd said there was also a monetary incentive to participate – a $500 prize for the overall top pilot title.

Andy Schneider, Boyd’s friend and a senior in aviation, said Boyd deserved to win the top pilot award because of his work ethic and passion toward aviation.

“He’s just really great at it,” Schneider said, jokingly adding that he would have beaten Boyd if the competition had included more events.

Boyd said he is currently working to gain as much flying experience as possible so that he might eventually be able to work for a regional airline.

“Right now, I’m flight-instructing and building flight hours by teaching here and at the Danville (Ill.) Airport,” he said.

Boyd mentioned one specific scare, which occurred in the first week of his now six months of instructing.

“One of my first students stalled an airplane right above where we were going to land, and we ended up slamming into the ground,” he said. “Since then, I’ve been making sure to cover all my bases, and I always have a hand right by the controls to try to prevent stuff like that from happening.”

Boyd said being a flight instructor is fun and rewarding.

“It’s great watching people get a smile on their face when they learn to land an airplane,” he said. “You remember how you had the same reaction when it happened for you.”

Kyle Dean, Boyd’s longtime friend, roommate and senior in applied life studies, described Boyd as someone who is straightforward, motivated, dependable and not afraid to speak his mind. He said Boyd made a good student and pilot because of his drive and ability to set priorities.

“So many times when we’ve gone out at night and tried to get him to come with us, he says he can’t because he has to be up early the next morning,” Dean said. “He’s hard-nosed and very devoted when he puts his mind toward something.”

Tyler Kearney, another friend of Boyd’s and a graduate student, described him as sarcastic.

“He’s got a great sense of humor – you can’t help but laugh when you’re around him,” Kearney said. “He’s famous for quoting obscure lines from Top Gun.”

Kearney said Boyd seemed to have found something to be passionate about – flying.

“Ever since he found aviation, he has really taken off – no pun intended,” Kearney said. “When he bought aviator glasses and started watching Top Gun and Iron Eagle every night of the week, I knew he was serious.”

While he is not completely sure if he wants to work for a commercial airline one day, he said it is a definite possibility.

“If that were to happen, I would, of course, want to fly the biggest and fastest planes they have,” he said.

Boyd said his passion toward flying became evident the first time he flew a plane.

“I couldn’t believe I was going to school doing this,” he said. “It’s a pretty good feeling when you know other people are stuck sitting in class while you’re flying over campus.”