Return to Headlines

Sky is the limit for Design Lab alum

As a child, Anthony Bearden marveled at the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels during their flight demonstration at Cleveland’s annual air show and dreamed of becoming one when he grew up.

Anthony Bearden Years later, Anthony is a new Design Lab Early College High School graduate and on the way to achieving his childhood dream. Anthony earned his private pilot license at 17 and is working toward obtaining other credentials he needs to become a professional pilot.

He began his training at age 14 at Burke Lakefront Airport’s flight school. At 16, he completed his first solo flight and has since logged upwards of 90 hours of flight time, flying as far as Columbus and the middle of Pennsylvania.

"Flying is very freeing" he said. "It’s also extremely mentally taxing because there are so many things you have to keep track of and communicate."

But Anthony, who graduated at the top of his class, is up for the challenge. When he begins classes at Cleveland State University this year, he will be ahead of many other first-year students, having earned more than 30 college credits at CSU as a high school student. He plans to transfer to Ohio State University after two years to pursue a degree in aerospace engineering.

"Flying is very freeing. It’s also extremely mentally taxing because there are so many things you have to keep track of and communicate."

Anthony’s path to graduation was somewhat untraditional. His parents home-schooled him until 11th grade, when he started at Design Lab. For Anthony, entering a public school after a lifetime of home-schooling was daunting.

“The first day of school is always nerve wracking, especially when you’re 17 and have never been to school before," he said.

The transition was easier than he expected, thanks to the fact that his classmates and teachers were welcoming.

If going to a new school takes nerve, try performing pilot training exercises with names like “engine failure simulation” and “emergency descent.”

“Those are my favorite,” Anthony said of the latter.

When he started his training, Anthony was the youngest one in his class. In the local aviation community, Anthony said, he has never met someone as young as him. But that doesn’t mean he can’t relate to the other pilots-in-training.

“The aviation community around here is really closely knit, so I know a lot of pilots and I’m very good friends with a few pilots,” he said.

Anthony and his fellow aviation students frequently share their stories from the sky -- the kind of stories where he said you “learn what not to do.” Luckily, Anthony hasn’t had anything dangerous happen in his training.

He has also had his fair share of lessons on the ground level of airport operations, having spent the past two years working as a line service technician at Lost Nation Airport in Willoughby. Prior to that, he spent a year shadowing the head of that team. Now, Anthony is part of the crew that helps put fuel in airplanes and load them into hangars.

During the school year, he still found time to train about one hour per week. He is preparing to earn an instrument rating, which in general terms means the qualifications that a pilot must have to fly in the clouds.

To earn that rating, Anthony will need to complete at least 50 hours of cross-country flight time as pilot in command, 40 hours of simulated or actual instrument time and 15 hours of flight instruction in that area.

After earning his instrument rating, Anthony plans to pursue his commercial rating and then his airline transport pilot certificate -- the crown jewel of pilot ratings.

Anthony has more than a thousand hours of training ahead of him, but that doesn’t seem to faze him. Right now, he’s focused on earning his college degree and making progress in an unusual and exciting pursuit.

“It’s really cool to do something that not a lot of people can do,” he said.