OMAHA — While everyone else is in class, Brandon Perkins’ head is in the clouds.
“Some people go to class, I go to fly, not many people can say that,” said the 2014 Columbus High graduate.
Perkins isn’t your average student, not just because he will finish college in only three years and is a 19-year-old flight instructor. He’s also co-captain of the University of Nebraska at Omaha Aviation Institute’s flight team — the Flying Mavericks.
The team recently placed third out of 17 schools in the region, qualifying the Mavs for the seventh year in a row for the National Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference in Columbus, Ohio.
The early May event tests numerous types of skills from navigation and landing to calculating fuel usage in a two-seater Cessna 150.
In 2015, Perkins took second in the Top Pilot competition.
The son of Columbus Public Schools teachers Dave and Richa Perkins, he knew at a young age he wanted to do something different with his life. Not that he didn’t respect his parents' career choices, he just wanted to forge his own path.
Perkins loved science and figuring out how things worked, he just needed a way to turn his interests into a profession.
During his junior year in high school, he caught wind of something called a Discovery Flight offered at the Council Bluffs Municipal Airport in Iowa. With a fairly inexpensive price tag, Perkins jumped at the opportunity.
It was just him and the pilot in a small two-seater aircraft.
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The flight was designed to show beginners that flying is not out of reach by letting students help steer, liftoff and fly the plane for 30 minutes.
The second Perkins got in the air, the cloudiness of his future disappeared.
“Yep, this is what I want to do with my life. That was it,” he said.
He’s currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in science and aviation with a specialization in professional flight.
Flying for commercial airliners like Delta and Southwest is what Perkins is shooting for, but he hasn’t ruled out a future of piloting private jets.
And since he took so many college credits in high school, he is able to jump-start his career, expecting to graduate in May of 2017.
He’s not only a college student and co-captain of a flight team, he’s also the youngest flight instructor at the same airport that showed him his calling in nearby Council Bluffs.
“Sometimes I get weird looks, but once I start talking they realize I’m OK,” he joked.
The UNO flight team is raising money for its trip to Ohio. For more information, visit www.gofundme.com/r8rpev84.