Kenny KetchumAt Home in the Sky

Kenny Ketchum’s 11th birthday present determined his future.

There were no video games to unwrap – instead he took off into the wild blue on his first airplane flight.

Kenny clearly remembers that day: “There can’t be anything better than this,” he decided.

That thought stuck with him through monthly flight lessons that took place over the next four years, leading to his first solo flight on his 16th birthday.

When it came time to consider college, he didn’t look at any schools that didn’t offer aviation.

There were larger schools, but having graduated with a high school class of 35 from La Conner, Wash., a college offering one-on-one instruction and a comfortable atmosphere was familiar.

“When I came to visit RMC, the aviation department was in the process of moving operations from Laurel to the Billings airport,” Kenny says. “Dan Hargrove, director of aviation, was in clothes with paint on them from painting the new location. He was so relaxed and easy to be around; I knew this was an atmosphere I could excel in.”

Kenny’s interaction with Hargrove helped secure the decision.

“I think the world of Dan,” Kenny says. “He has written me many letters of recommendation for scholarships, and having his recommendation is incredible because of his outstanding career as an Air Force II pilot. He has a great thing going on here; RMC has a top-notch aviation program.”

Although Kenny arrived at RMC with previous flight experience, he’s working through additional training in aviation meteorology, aviation law, flight management systems, CRJ jet simulations, and GPS classes.

“The amount of knowledge you need to fly safely is extreme,” he says. “You may think the flying portion is what you are really here for, but there is other training you receive that puts you so far ahead of other potential job candidates. It’s amazing.”

Kenny, who earned his certified flight instructor rating this past summer, was hired as a flight instructor for the RMC aviation program. Although he’s now passing on some lessons, Kenny still learns every time he flies.

The greatest lesson he can pass on to any future aviation majors is “if you don’t have the passion to get through it, don’t do it." 

And one more tip: There really isn’t anything better than this.