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admin | 07.13.2018
Barbara Wilson had chosen an aisle seat at the Ozarka College graduation ceremony, which put her directly in Governor Asa Hutchinson’s path.
The governor, who was there to deliver the commencement speech, was shaking hands on his way into the John E. Miller Auditorium, and he stopped to visit with Mrs. Wilson.
“Who are you here for?” the governor asked.
“My granddaughter,” replied Mrs. Wilson. works in the kitchen at the Ozark Folk Center State Park.
Her granddaughter’s name is Lexxy Scott, Mrs. Wilson told her boss, and Lexxy was the only woman graduating from the school’s aviation program that night.
“What’s she going to do now?” the governor asked.
Mrs. Wilson’s answer, which we will learn in a moment, is classic and has become one of the governor’s favorite lines.
The actual idea of piloting planes came to Lexxy two years ago on a flight to Corpus Christi, Texas, to visit her dad, John E. Scott. As she hurtled through the air, the thought occurred to her that flying a plane might, indeed, be fun; before she deplaned, she visited with the crew and the pilot, who let her sit in the cockpit.
A few days later, her dad surprised her with a skydiving adventure, and that’s when the idea to pilot became her ambition.
“I knew then that flying is where I need to be,” Lexxy says. “I want to fly skydivers. Then I thought, ‘I want to do aerobatics.’”
So now Lexxy has earned a two-year Applied Sciences degree through Ozarka College’s aviation school.
Once Lexxy completes her check flight this summer, she will have her private pilot’s license. In the fall, she will continue school at Ozarka and earn her commercial license, a $20,000 undertaking, and then she can fly for pay.
If she has a pilot hero, it would be Sully Sullenberg, who safely landed his U.S. Airways passenger jet in the Hudson River after the plane flew into a flock of Canada geese on take off.
“I’ve watched that movie (Sully) so many times. And the documentaries. He’s the kind of pilot I aspire to be.”
Oh, and there’s Top Gun.
Lexxy’s list of employment possibilities is long. She can fly executives on their corporate jets or movie stars on their private planes. She can take skydivers up. She can fly for a state agency such as Arkansas Game and Fish or the Forestry. She could fly search and rescue. And she can thrill her fans on the ground flying lazy eights, loop-de-loops, and humpty bumps, which would satisfy her love of adventure.
“I’ve always liked jumping off the bluff at the lake,” she says.
Ozarka College is one of the state’s 22 two-year colleges, and some of the college’s degree, license and certificate programs represent a growing awareness in the state and across the country that a four-year college or university education is just one of many opportunities after high school. In addition to its professional pilot program, Ozarka offerings include programs in registered and licensed practical nursing, computer science, automotive technology, culinary arts, and welding.
Lexxy was the only woman in her aviation class, and the second woman to graduate since the school opened in 2015.
On May 10, 10 members of Lexxy’s family gathered to watch her walk the stage, a moment that included a hand-shake with Governor Hutchinson.
But it was the governor’s handshake and chat with Lexxy’s grandmother that the governor talks about. It’s a good proud-grandmother story, and it also describes how the governor feels about the future of Arkansas.
“What’s she going to do now?” Governor Hutchinson asked Mrs. Wilson, who replied:
“Anything she wants to do.”
The governor likes to tell this story because it sums up how he feels about his state. “That’s where we are,” Governor Hutchinson says. “Arkansas can do anything she wants to do.”