Sunday, April 24, 2016

Jacob Harness: Mountain View native first to complete solo flight at Ozarka College

Ozarka College freshman Jacob Harness, left, and the college’s aviation-program director, Nick Lenczycki, stand in front of the Cessna 172 Skyhawk that Harness flew for his first solo flight earlier this month.

After flying a Cessna 172 Skyhawk around a portion of Melbourne on April 13, Mountain View native Jacob Harness became the first Ozarka College aviation-program student to complete a solo flight.

“It feels kind of cool. I’m the first one,” the 19-year-old freshman said. “It’s kind of neat being the first one ever to do something.”

Before enrolling in Ozarka College’s Associate of Science in professional pilot-aviation degree program, which began in August 2015, Harness took a few flight classes with a local instructor in his hometown of Mountain View, earning Harness enough credits to get a head start in the program.

“I got enough hours that gave me credit for the first portion, so I could start in Stage 2,” he said.

Aviation students must learn emergency procedures, ground knowledge and the operation of aircraft controls, along with passing an aeronautical knowledge test, before flying alone. Harness took introductory courses this past fall, and his actual flying classes began during this spring semester, he said.

Nick Lenczycki, Ozarka College aviation-program director, who was also Harness’ flight instructor, said he and Harness flew together about a dozen times before Harness was able to fly on his own.

“All the aircraft have dual controls, so as an instructor, you’re able to assist when you need to,” Lenczycki said.

Harness said handling an aircraft while it’s in the air isn’t the most challenging part of flying.

“The kick off and landing are what you need to go over a lot to get more comfortable,” he said. “If it’s a calm day when the wind’s not blowing too bad, it’s not too tricky at all, but that hardly ever happens.”

For the 45 minutes to an hour that Harness was in the air, he thought to himself, “I’m flying an airplane by myself; this is cool,” he said.

As a high school senior, Harness originally considered attending Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, which offers a Bachelor of Science degree in aviation. Once Lenczycki visited Mountain View High School, however, Harness changed his mind.

“I decided right then that that was what I was going to do,” he said.

A partnership between Henderson State University and Ozarka College allows Ozarka’s aviation students to earn their associate degrees there and seamlessly transfer to Henderson to complete its bachelor-degree program.

“He’s a very relaxed student,” Lenczycki said. “Ground-knowledge-wise, he’s near the top of his class. He controls the airplane really well.”

Now that Harness has completed his solo flight, Lenczycki will prepare him for cross-countries, which are flights that are more than 50 nautical miles. Students like Harness will fly to Mountain View, Little Rock, Searcy and areas of Missouri by the end of the school year. Harness will eventually have to fly to these locations alone.

“The program itself is designed to really help students learn about the aviation industry and give them a solid introduction,” Lenczycki said. “We get a lot of students that don’t understand that they can live in the area, and they can have a pretty interesting career.”

Lenczycki said that students who complete the program can often find jobs doing mission work and flying for airlines. Around the world, the demand for pilots is huge, he said.

“Students have no problems finding jobs right now,” he said. “Five to 10 years after graduation, students can easily have a six-figure income.”

Harness said that now that he’s almost done with his first year in the program, he’ll consider other career paths he might not have before.

“When I kind of started, I was looking toward eventually getting into the airline-type stuff,” he said. “Right now, I’m leaving my options open. The goal is the airlines, but it’s kind of what comes first or whatever I enjoy doing better.”

Harness said that even if prospective students have little to no flying knowledge, Ozarka College can help them succeed.

“It’s a great program. It has really great resources that really teach you what you need to know in a good fun way,” Harness said. “If you had no clue what you’re getting into, this is a great place to start.”

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