Alair Tudor in his favourite role – at the controls of a plane. (GP)
SUN, JUNE 17, 2012 – 12:04 AM
“I just wanted to do my best and make my family and friends proud.”
Those were the sentiments of 23-year-old Alair Tudor, who graduated last month from the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM) in the United States with a degree in airport management.
The former student of Christ Church Foundation School, who always wanted to fly a plane from the time he was a tot, graduated summa cum laude, and was one of only six students of the 865 graduates who achieved a perfect 4.0 grade point average (GPA).
Tudor said he always had a fascination with flying planes from the age of three when he went on his first trip to Disney World with his parents, Philip Tudor, Deputy Chief Technical Officer in the Ministry of Transport & Works, and Dr Lesandra Tudor, a teacher at Welches Primary School.
It therefore came as no surprise to his family and friends when he chose a career as an aviator. In 2008 at the age of 19, Alair was believed to be Barbados’ youngest ever Federal Aviation Administration-trained commercial pilot.
However, he encountered some “turbulence” and depression in trying to get his flight plans off the ground. “Although I graduated at the top of my class at flight school back then, I might have been considered too young to get a job flying passengers in the region. I applied to almost all of the regional airlines, private carriers and security service without success. I soon became depressed at this turn of events, particularly when I would go on Facebook and see my colleagues from flight school flying for American Eagle, Japanese Airlines or one of the other companies.”
He had to take another route but, thanks to support from relatives, stayed the course. “To keep myself ‘sharp’ with what I had learnt, my family would rent a friend’s plane and we would fly to St Lucia for a weekend. During this time my friend
and I would also fly to St Vincent and Bequia and import lobster to be sold in the hotels. This, however, was seasonal and my flying opportunities soon came to an end,” Alair continued.
He was, however, undaunted and determined to reach his career destination. In early 2009 he put a proposal to his parents which he said later became known in his household as Plan B. It involved him going overseas again to train to be a flight instructor. Having convinced them there was a need for flight instructors in Barbados, he applied to American Flyers Flight School in Pompano Beach, Florida.
Alair recalled that he was late arriving there and nearly missed the deadline. “My dad and I reached the flight school at 9 a.m. that Monday, only to be told by the chief instructor that I had come two weeks late. The check ride (flight exam) for the students was going to be held the same Friday and I would have to apply the following month since I was not familiar with that plane or that airfield. “I still remember how dad looked at the instructor, saying, ‘Once it got two wings and an engine, my son can fly it; Alair will be ready by Friday’.”
The instructor reluctantly agreed.The next few days, his dad would drop him off at the flight line at 8 a.m. and he would spend the day going through the various manoeuvres, getting the “feel” of the plane and learning the area.
The check ride was a success. Alair went on to get his ratings as a certified flight instructor and advanced instrument ground instructor.
On returning to Barbados, he was able to teach a couple of students, but work was not consistent. Again, he started to become disillusioned about his future prospects as a pilot.
“I sat down with my parents once again and broke the news that I wanted to go and study one more time. I reasoned with them that as a pilot there would come a time when I might be too old to fly or be grounded due to some ailment later on in life. So I needed a backup plan or Plan C.
“I decided to pursue a degree in airport management. To this end, I researched the accredited universities in the United States which offered a degree in airport management which also had flight schools where I could get the opportunity to teach flying. I then looked at their syllabus to see what courses could be done here at the University of the West Indies (UWI) and thereafter transfer credit,” said the determined young man.
In 2009 Alair was accepted at UWI Cave Hill to pursue a degree in management. In August 2010 he was fortunate to gain a full scholarship at ULM, having received a 4.0 GPA from UWI for the courses that year. This, he added, allowed him to theoretically reduce his degree at ULM to three years instead of four.
“I said theoretically since I was able to maximize the number of courses I did every semester and during the winter and summer breaks, and completed the degree programme in two years. During this period I also completed my internship at the Monroe Regional Airport while training a few students to achieve their private pilot licence.”
He also represented the university as flight captain in the National Intercollegiate Flying Association Competition, in which flight teams from colleges in that region meet to take part in a wide range of activities that test pilots’ abilities on the ground and in the air. They placed fourth among the 20 colleges participating, coming from last place the previous year.
During his studies, Alair applied for and received a number of scholarships, based on his academic performance, that helped to reduce the financial burden on his parents.
Alair, who expressed gratitude to the teachers of Erdiston Primary School and Christ Church Foundation “who laid the foundation” for him, added: “I am just thankful that all the hard work I have done has [brought me] success.”
While he has accepted a job as flight instructor in Monroe at JPS Aviation, he is hoping to pursue a Master’s in business administration next year, with the ultimate goal of setting up a flight school in Barbados.
Dad Philip was more than proud of his son’s pursuit of success. “I believe that my son’s achievement is testimony to the fact that a student does not have to pass for a school like Harrison or Queen’s College to do well academically. My son was prepared to work extremely hard to achieve his academic goals . . . and overwhelming desire to become a pilot.”