For many people, travel by plane can be a stressful experience. Between navigating airport security lines, making it to the departure gate on time and crossing your fingers that your checked bags arrive at your destination at the same time as you, there are plenty of opportunities for things to go awry.
But for Samuel Heitzman, a member of Fairmont State’s recently graduated Class of 2021, the experience is exhilarating.
“The whole process of going to the airport, getting checked in and flying is something I fell in love with at a very early age,” said Heitzman.
Heitzman has traveled thousands of miles by air, often making the international trip across the Atlantic Ocean to visit his mother’s home country: England.
“I always loved it when our flights would get delayed because it meant I could spend even more time running around and exploring the airport,” he said.
These days, though, Heitzman doesn’t often find himself as an airplane passenger; instead, he’s the pilot. A graduate of East Fairmont High School, Heitzman enrolled in Fairmont State University’s Aviation Program in 2017 and earned his private pilot’s license just a year and a half later. Since then, he has gone on to obtain his instrument rating and his commercial pilot’s certificate, culminating with the completion of his Bachelor’s Degree in Aviation Management Professional Flight this past April. To cap it all off, Heitzman was also named an “Outstanding Senior” by his teacher mentors.
“Being voted Outstanding Senior by my instructors really means a lot,” said Heitzman. “It’s a testament to how much I’ve grown and improved over the years.”
Just last week, Heitzman had the honor of escorting Fairmont native, David McRobie, who recently donated his personal aircraft to the University’s Aviation Program, to a press conference at the Fairmont State Aviation Hangar where the aircraft was dedicated in honor of McRobie’s generous gift.
“Flying Mr. McRobie in and driving him to the gate where everyone was waiting to welcome him was incredible,” said Heitzman. “His donation is really going to aid our fleet and program.”
Heitzman is now a full-time flight instructor at his alma mater, training the next wave of aspiring pilots to fly. Eventually, he hopes to have a career working for the very company that first sparked his fascination for air travel: United Airlines.
“I worked with United Airlines for two and a half years as a customer service agent, and it’s also the airline we fly on when we go to England,” said Heitzman. “To fly for them as a pilot out of their main hub in Chicago is my ultimate goal.”