His Attitude Matches His Altitude
Evan Vazquez brightens any room he’s in. Outgoing, polite and always stylishly dressed, his huge smile radiates confidence and warmth.
Looking at him today, as he begins his senior year as professional pilot major in Kent State University's College of Aeronautics and Engineeering, you’d never know that as a freshman, he considered himself quite shy.
Finding His Voice
Vazquez credits joining a fraternity with helping him overcome his shyness and gain confidence.
“I came in not thinking I would join a fraternity and ending up joining Alpha Sigma Phi, and that was probably the best decision I made at college,” he said. “I think it’s where I really flourished.
He said that being part of the fraternity helped him “open up.”
“I would definitely say I’m not as shy. I definitely enjoy taking more risks or raising my hand or getting more active in my classrooms,” Vazquez said. “During my first semester here, I discovered a lot about myself and who I am as a person, where I want my career to go and who I want in my life. So: growing up.”
“I’ve always wanted to be a pilot.” – Evan Vazquez
He Always Had an Eye to the Skies
Growing up, his family would regularly fly to Mississippi to visit his grandfather. Vazquez looked forward to these trips every year, particularly the flying part. As he got older, his interest grew.
“I first noticed Evan’s interest in flying and becoming a pilot when he was around eight years old,” said Michael Vazquez, Evan’s father, a battalion chief with the City of Cleveland’s Fire Department. Evan Vazquez's mother is a nurse at the Cleveland Clinic Medina Hospital.
Evan Vazquez with his mother, sister and father at his sister's wedding.
“We were going to New York City to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. He booked the flights and told us about the planes we were taking. During that trip, we went to F.A.O. Schwartz, and he wanted all of the Playmobil airplanes and airport models,” said Michael Vazquez.
Living in Medina, Ohio, Evan Vazquez said he was very lucky to have an airport close by. He earned his private pilot certification when he was a senior in high school.
“I’ve always wanted to be a pilot. There was never really another career choice for me. I was born to do it,” said Evan Vazquez.
A video recorded by Evan Vazquez during one of his flights.
“As a parent of a Kent State student, I believe Kent State was a great choice for Evan.” – Michael Vazquez.
Michael Vazquez said he and Evan visited San Jose State and Bowling Green State University to look at the flight programs. They had planned to visit Kent State, but the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic derailed that plan.
For Evan Vazquez, the choice was always between Kent State and Bowling Green. He said that each had its pros and cons, but Kent State was his first choice.
“I kind of always leaned toward Kent because their aviation program is No. 1 in the state, so that is definitely a big factor for me,” he said. “They also are very involved with the Delta Propel program and the STEP program, so that also encouraged me to go here.”
In Delta Airlines' Propel Collegiate Pilot Career Path program, the airline will interview, help train and recruit high-quality pilot candidates among Kent State students who meet the program's eligibility requirements. STEP, or Student to Endeavor Pilot, is a program from Endeavor Air – a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta Airlines. The STEP program engages with flight students throughout their educational career, helping them navigate the steps required to join the Endeavor Air team.
An aerial view of The Flats in Cleveland, captured by Evan Vazquez during a flight
Kent State’s location, relative to his home in Medina, also influenced Vazquez’s choice.
“It’s only 50 minutes, so if I want to go home, I can,” he said. “But I’m still far enough that I can get my freedom and stuff.”
“As a parent of a Kent State student, I believe Kent State was a great choice for Evan. He has not only progressed in his field, but as an adult as well. Living on, or near, campus he has learned to budget not only his time, but also his finances,” said Michael Vazquez, who also noted the appeal of the campus, the city of Kent and ongoing improvement of the pilot program. “The program just received a grant to purchase six new aircraft that will upgrade the program and allow it to offer more flying hours,” he said.
A Tik Tok video, created by Evan Vazquez shows highlights of some of his flights
The Years Fly By
As a soon-to-be-graduating senior, Evan Vazquez looks back at his time at Kent State and a pilot program he says he would recommend to anyone.
“I love flying. I can talk it about it for hours and hours,” he said. “I would say to come here because their program is really, really good. You work a lot with the Federal Aviation Administration and with the other airlines. The program prepares you with the most knowledge they can give you. It very much prepares you for the real world."
Vazquez loves his time in the air and acknowledges that it’s an important part of Kent State’s program.
“You get so much experience,” he said. “My favorite thing was when I did an eight-hour flight. I flew to Syracuse, New York, by myself, which was very exciting and a lot of fun, very challenging, but it definitely pushed me, and it was just so much fun.”
“It gives you a different aspect of the world.” – Evan Vazquez
“When I go flying, I have the best time,” Vazquez said. “I don’t think about anything else. You get to see a lot of stuff; I’ll drive roads and then I’ll fly over. I think that’s so cool. Flying is very freeing, and it gives you a different aspect of the world, seeing over the ground. It’s so cool to me. If you have that passion for it, then go for it, see what it’s about, give it a try.”
As the semester begins, Vazquez said he is excited about commencement.
“It’s crazy to think I was a freshman four years ago and now I’m getting ready to graduate,” he said.
He continues to build upon his flying skills and is working on his multi-rating, which is about learning to fly a two-engine aircraft as opposed to the single-engine aircraft he has been flying up to now.
“Flying a two-engine is a lot different, so this is a course I looked forward to,” he said. “It’s challenging, but it has really upped my skills.”
A photo from one of Evan Vazquez's night flights
It's All About the Hours
The airspace on the way to becoming a professional pilot is filled with hours. Pilots are required to complete a certain number of flight hours to be considered for different positions in aviation. Vazquez even moved closer to the Kent State University Airport so that he might pick up extra flying time on short notice.
A screen capture from Evan Vazquez's phone shows his flight path from Kent to Toledo.
To become an airline pilot, Vazquez said, he will need 1,000 flight hours. He’ll graduate from Kent State with 250. So, how do pilots accrue those valuable hours? Vazquez said that he can think of about 15 different avenues someone could take, from being a flight instructor, to a pilot for parachute operations to working in aerial photography or a becoming a pipeline patrol pilot.
After graduation, Vazquez is looking at applying for a position as a pipeline patrol company in Texas. In an entry-level position with the company, he can continue to accrue those valuable flight hours.
“And then eventually, I think it’s at 500 hours, I would be an official pipeline patrol pilot,” he said. “And then it’s just getting those hours to get to the airlines. I’ll need 1,000 flight hours.”
‘Definitely Don’t Get Discouraged’
The lessons Vazquez has learned as a pilot have helped him to better handle the ups and downs in all areas of his life.
“Definitely don’t get discouraged,” he said. “With flying in general, and with any college you go to, there are going to be peaks and valleys. It’s how it is.”
“So, I’ve always reminded myself, it’s anywhere and everywhere you go, the setbacks – it’s join going to happen,” Vazquez said. “But for me, it’s about being confident and to just keep going, don’t stop. Just keep going.”