Jasmine Harrison is only 18 years old, but she’s on her way to becoming a pilot.
She has completed the ground school class at Greenwood Municipal Airport and is preparing to take a test administered by the Federal Aviation Administration so she can begin flight school.
The Southport High School senior has been learning about aviation through the airport’s Young Eagles program, which operates under the Greenwood chapter of the Experimental Aviation Association and introduces youths to topics like navigation, flight physics and charts, aircraft structure, airspace and weather.
Harrison took her first flight in a small airplane July 16 with Denny Kruckeberg, a retired Navy and commercial pilot and a part-time instructor at the airport. “She did fine; she worked the controls for a little bit,” he said.
“It’s all coming into place; I am ready to go up again,” said Harrison, who would like to fly helicopters. Her dream is to fly a Blackhawk and to go for a ride in one. “I might be a pilot sooner than I expected. I’d like to thank my family and friends and the airport staff for all of their support.”
In addition to her involvement with Young Eagles, Harrison is a volunteer at the airport, where she answers the phone, does clerical work and helps to fuel planes. Harrison also works at Family Dollar so she can save money for flight school, and she has launched a fundraiser at https://www.gofundme.com/flightclass.
Because Harrison didn’t always have transportation to the airport – her single mother works long hours – she often walked 2 1/2 miles one way to the facility. Since then, Young Eagles volunteers Alan and Elizabeth Gluff gave her a bike.
Harrison’s interest in aviation was sparked when attending an air show about 10 years ago. “Jasmine loved the show,” said mom Karen Harrison. “But she had poor eyesight and thought that she would never be able to fly.
But her vision was correctable. What’s funny is that Jasmine is flying before she’s driving. She has no desire to get her driver’s license; kids don’t have to leave their houses anymore to socialize; many view getting a license as a chore.”
Harrison plans to study mechanical and aeronautical engineering at IUPUI before transferring to Purdue.
Her sisters, Emily and Marissa, also attend Southport, but they haven’t shown any interest in flying. “They just like boys, clothes and having their hair styled,” their mom said. “Jasmine is setting a fine example for her sisters. She is proof that you can do anything if your set your mind to it.”
Wade Kohlmann, a volunteer at the airport and at Southport High, said Harrison has a lot of potential. “She has the drive to be a pilot.”
When Kohlmann sees students who have completed the program he addresses them as “Captain” because they have flown a plane. “It’s good for their egos, and they deserve to be recognized.”
Young Eagles, which is supported by pilots who donate their time, planes and fuel, also provides free airplane rides to worthy recipients, such as youths in Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Matt Kinnaird, a senior at Perry Meridian and the “little brother” of Brian Richmond, was among those who enjoyed cruising the wide blue yonder with Kruckebert on July 16.
“Please don’t let me puke,” he said before taking off.
Upon landing he was all smiles and said the flight awesome. “It felt like the Earth was falling, not that we were taking off. Everything looked like toys. It was so peaceful.”
Roger Tomey, educator coordinator of Young Eagles, said he would like to expand the program to include dual credit courses for high school and college.
He offered high praise to Lori Curless, who manages the airport. “This is best I have ever seen this airport. Lori is a professional and a dedicated manager. She has done a super job.”
Wade said Tomey, who has flown more than 400 missions, is the backbone and catalyst of the program. “We would be nowhere without him.”