Young pilot spreads her wings at SOSU
From the age of 16, Reagan Benson knew that she wanted to be a pilot.
Before that, she never had any experience and none of her family piloted planes or studied aviation. It was not until she was able to fly in a small aircraft in high school when she felt like she knew what she wanted to do for a career.
Originally from Paris, Texas, Benson is now making that dream a reality as she is studying aviation at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant with the hope of becoming a professional pilot.
“I got the opportunity to go up in like a small aircraft, and I just fell in love with it. It was such an experience. I was like ‘I can do this for the rest of my life, like easily, I’ll never get bored!” Benson said.
Benson has been in the aviation program for 3 years and still gets child-like excitement for every flight. Her flight journeys have included trips to various cities all over Texas, Oklahoma and even Louisiana.
The farthest that she has ever flown was to Galveston.
“Being able to go all the way to Galveston, dip my feet in the water, then fly back … it’s just an incredible experience.” she said.
Benson added that she likes flying to different airports, but she tries to not go to the same airport more than once. The unfamiliarity of different airports is what drives to her to expand her skills when it comes to piloting a plane.
“I like to change it up and make sure that I get experience just coming into an unfamiliar airport and having to deal with that situation,” Benson said
When asked what planes she flies, she elaborated that in her aviation training, she starts at the bottom and works her way to the top. The first plane she flew at the beginning of her training is called a Cessna 150, a simple two-seater and is “equivalent to driving a go kart.”
The plane that she is currently flying is a Cessna 172, a four-seater that is more spacious and like driving a car. She will eventually transfer to a Cessna 310, a multi-engine aircraft.
After graduation, instead of leaving campus altogether like most do, aviation students are certified by Southeastern as an official flight instructor, allowing these them to teach incoming freshmen and sophomores. The usual goal during this time of teaching is to reach the required 1,000 flight hours before going off to and officially becoming a pilot at an airline.
“People will stick around and instruct for about a year or so until they build up those 1,000 hours, and by then they’ll go off to their airline of choice.” she said.
Benson would love work for Southwest Airlines, but the future is never set in stone.
While flying, Benson also likes to take photographs of the ground while up in the air. She uses photography as a way of documenting her experience and have something as a reminder of all the places and cool sights she’s seen and flown to.
“When you get up there, you see stuff and you’re like ‘I can’t not take a picture of this, you know? It’s so pretty.”
Benson's intended graduation date is in spring of 2022. Afterwards, she plans to further pursue her dream of becoming a pilot.