Childhood Dream Takes Flight

Published on January 18, 2017

It’s not every five-year-old who already knows what he wants to do with his life, and then spends the next 15 years following through on his dream.

But that’s what happened after young Horace Hunter took an international flight to visit his grandparents in Japan.

Now 20, the senior aviation major and Rodney Gross Scholar at Eastern Kentucky University is about to embark on two prestigious internships as his long anticipated career takes flight.

Already, Hunter has earned his private pilot’s license, instrument rating, multi-engine add-on, commercial certificate and certified flight instructor certificate, the latter of which qualifies him to teach private and commercial student pilots. He will soon add a “second-in-command-type rating” for two turbojets, which will allow him to fly as a co-pilot for two specific types of private jets. When he returns from the internships this fall, he will obtain his instrument instructor’s certificate.

And that’s all before the Lexington native, who boasts a 3.4 GPA, graduates in December 2017 with a concentration in professional multiengine flight.

The first internship, which spans the Spring 2017 semester, is with Ward-Kraft, a “very eclectic” company whose work includes commercial printing and labeling, cattle ranching, and firearms. “Because so much traveling is required for the company officials, they decided to use private jets for travel. I will act as a co-pilot to the pilots of the airplanes they fly, and walk in the shoes of a corporate pilot for a semester.” His duties will include flight planning, cabin preparation, hotel booking, strategic planning and, of course, flying.

“As I met people in the industry and observed their lifestyle and career choices, corporate aviation became more appealing to me,” Hunter said, noting the Ward-Kraft internship “will literally let me live the day in a life of a corporate pilot and give me invaluable experiences and contacts.”

The second internship, from May 22 until the beginning of fall classes at EKU, is with Textron, parent company of the well-known Cessna aircraft brand. “This one,” Hunter said, “will deal with many important executive figures and other interns.” Hunter will serve as a ground instructor teaching flight principles, and provide flight instruction and discovery flights.

The Textron internship, Hunter said, “will allow me to instruct and interact with people outside EKU and meet some very important people who have done all I aspire to do and more.”

After graduating from Lexington Lafayette High School in 2014, Hunter chose EKU “because it’s the most affordable flight training program in the region, and will provide you with the same certifications as expensive aviation universities. Not to mention it is the only one in Kentucky, conveniently close to home.”

Still, relative to other pursuits, flight training is an expensive proposition, and the Rodney Gross Diversity Scholarship “enabled me to reach some of the certificates and ratings that I’ve obtained over the years a little more quickly than I otherwise would have.”

The scholarship program, which honors the memory of a former Carter County physician and member of the EKU Board of Regents (1981-92), is designed to aid the success of students of diverse backgrounds pursuing their first undergraduate or graduate degree. Housed in the Student Outreach and Transition Office, the program provides a renewable scholarship, along with a variety of academic, social and professional development activities. Recipients are chosen based on a holistic evaluation of academic achievement, a personal essay, extracurricular activities and letters of recommendation.

Hunter cherishes the “community feel” of EKU’s aviation program.

“All of the professors take good care to ensure that I’m making all of the right career decisions and staying on track for graduation,” he said. “In the logistical complexity of continuing my academic status while away for these internships, Joe Marthaler and my adviser, Greg Wilson, have been very helpful. Also, our department chair, Dr. Tim Ross, has worked closely with me. Not to mention our ‘den mother,’ (administrative assistant) Carole Moores, who makes sure no aviation student goes hungry. A very supportive bunch of people.”

For more information about the EKU aviation program, visit

For more information about the Rodney Gross Diversity Scholarship, visit