Sharing the Dream

Eric Scott, '95, has a passion for flying he loves to share

By Juan Miguel Pedraza, University & Public Affairs writer

Eric Scott '95
Captain Eric Scott, ’95, traveled a long way across time and space to become a pilot. 

From the village in Panama where he grew up to the left seat in a JetBlue Airbus A-320, Scott navigated with a sure and steady passion for aviation that took him from his home country to English language study and then to the University of North Dakota’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences. 

Talking by phone from Puerto Rico during a break in his flight schedule, Scott said getting to a dream job takes perseverance, something he passes along to the many students he mentors as part of his other job as a JetBlue recruiter. He’s part of the airline’s Gateway Program that partners with several colleges, including UND.

“We mentor students while they’re in college and help them open doors into regional carriers, where they build up flight hours before eventually coming to us,” said Scott, who also mentors younger students and is on the national pilot professional standards committee.

Among the key skills today’s airline captain has to have is good time management. “I balance my time in the cockpit with time recruiting, going to job fairs, and doing pilot advocacy, plus my committee work,” said Scott, who now flies the Airbus A-320 series aircraft to destinations around the world.

The passion for all things aviation — from flying airplanes to helping aspiring pilots find their wings — was sparked in Panama, where his dad worked for the U.S. government cleaning barracks.

“Every Fourth of July, employees and their families could enjoy an air fair that included rides for the kids, parachute jumping, fighter jet displays and tons of good food,” Scott said. “I was intrigued early on and decided that’s what I wanted to do — fly airplanes.”
Before collecting his pilot’s license, however, Scott faced language and financial hurdles.

“My parents divorced and my dad went to the U.S. When I was 18, he sent me a ticket to go there,” Scott said. 

“It was kind of hard because I didn’t know any English, but I stayed focused on my dream, found odd jobs, and five years later got into UND — came in a very cold January in 1986,” said Scott, who also is active in the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals. “I struggled at first, but I finally started flying. Then I met an instructor who became my angel. He made things so simple that I started picking the skills up more quickly. He helped me focus on the positive, something that I learned to apply to the young people that I mentor today.

“I think a positive attitude is vital — and you carry that through with everyone you meet,” he said. “You never know who the next person is who might be able to give you a helping hand, or who you will be called upon to help.” 

Always time for kids

JetBlue recently arranged for a reunion between Capt. Scott and Elijah, now 14, at JetBlue’s Terminal 5 at New York’s JFK airport. Capt. Scott treated Elijah and a group of his friends to a special behind-the-scenes tour of the terminal, and they recreated the photo from their first meeting.

Elijah said.
At that very instant, Elijah decided he wanted to become a pilot, just like Capt. Scott. “He became a role model to me at that moment. He’s my hero. I look up to him,” 

Elijah Hedrington was just 5 years old when he first met Capt. Scott in 1993. Elijah was traveling to Burlington, Vt., as part of the Fresh Air Fund, a program that provides free summer experiences for children from low-income areas of New York City. Elijah’s escort, JetBlue crewmember Sheila Donnell, introduced him to Capt. Scott, who invited Elijah into the cockpit where the top photo was taken.