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Eyes Skyward

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Stevenson wants to get his new career off the ground.

As a customer service representative for Signature Aviation, Michael Stevenson (WC ’16) said the sky is the limit for most of his daily clientele.

“You’re dealing with the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent (of the wealthiest people in the country),” said Stevenson, whose company transports CEOs and corporation big shots around the country. “They’re all Type A personalities, and they’re a little insane sometimes. It just depends on who you get. Some guys are super chill, and some are not.

“It’s kind of fun to say I work for billionaires, but simultaneously, I want to be flying full-time.”

On Nov. 30, Stevenson dealt with the ultimate passenger, former President George W. Bush. He served as a point of contact for the Secret Service and helped coordinate the President’s motorcade on and off the runway.

“It really doesn’t get more VIP than a President,” Stevenson said. “It was extremely well organized and professional. Moving a former president is extremely complex, so everyone’s professionalism really helped.”

However, Stevenson says he wants to be the one in the air and not on the ground in his next job. Stevenson, who lives in Powell with his wife, Rachel, recently received the Commercial Multi-Engine Pilot rating. His goal is to take to the skies as a full-time pilot.

The Ohio State University graduate said the pilots he works with have been a great sounding board for him.

“I get the advice and counsel of pilots and aviation professionals,” he said. “I get to ask them questions like with the current pilot market, which (field of flying) is incredibly hot right now? What moves would you recommend I take? Should I go for my instructor rating next, or should I go for my multi-engine rating?”

One of the pilots recently gave Stevenson a glimpse of how good the business of flying can be. Stevenson got to serve as a co-pilot of sorts on a flight to Los Angeles on a CEO’s private Citation CJ2 jet.

“I had never even been out West before,” he said. “To see the entire country in the span of about three to four hours was pretty incredible.”

After his meeting, the CEO asked the two to fly him to Monterey for a day trip. At the end of the day, the passenger asked them if they wanted to join him for dinner.

 “I just met this guy this morning, and the next thing you know, we are eating dinner off the 18th hole at the Pebble Beach Golf Course. It was ridiculous.

“The only downside to the trip was we had to fly Southwest Airlines back to Columbus.”

Stevenson first fell in love with flying when he was eight years old. His father’s boss took Michael up in a single-propeller plane for a brief jaunt around the city.

“That was such a unique opportunity. It’s not something that everybody gets to do,” Stevenson said. “It was eye-opening… seeing the world from 8,000 feet up. From the point of view of an 8-year-old, it was a lot of fun.”

After graduating from Worthington Christian, Stevenson attended The Ohio State University to get a bachelor’s degree in aviation transportation while learning to fly.

According to Stevenson, getting behind the instrument panel was like being pushed off the high dive.

“It was like getting thrown into the deep end,” he said. “My instructor said, if you’re going to be the one learning how to fly, you can’t just get your feet wet. You got to jump in.”

Stevenson learned to fly in a Cessna 172 built in the 1970s. It was so old it probably had an eight-track tape player in its instrument board. Because of the constant fluctuating weather in Ohio, the older planes frequently needed maintenance. Often, he’d drive out to the airfield, only to be told the airplane was out of commission and he would need to reschedule his training session.

The experience tested Stevenson’s patience.

“Persistence is one of those things you need to become a pilot,” he said. “Flying isn’t something you accidentally get into. It’s not something you can passively do. You must be passionate about it or you won’t make it.”

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