For one family from the Deep South, a passion for aviation was born above the Arctic Circle in Alaska.
This passion helped to create five pilots in Dr. Michael Osborne’s family—and all of them took to the skies within the past five years.
Osborne, of Madison, Mississippi, said it began on a hunting trip to Alaska. A longtime avid hunter, Osborne had previously hunted in the Rocky Mountains. Traveling to Alaska, he met Kirk and Cole Ellis of Nabesna. The bush-flying brothers “took me and my son Carter, who was 11 at the time, to the Arctic slope to hunt caribou, and we were mesmerized by the experience,” Osborne said in an email.
In 2010, Osborne and his nephew, Brady Osborne, were invited to join a group of pilots from Mississippi who were flying to Alaska for a hunting expedition. Brady’s father, Randy, had recently died at age 42 from a cerebral aneurysm. “My nephew had lost focus in college because of this terrible loss, so I invited him to go along with our group…truly a life-changing decision,” Osborne said. “Brady was introduced to professional pilots who also flew bush planes in the wilderness for fun. The conversations that we witnessed (although we had very little knowledge base) of the details of flying 747s and Citation jets, along with the bush flying in highly modified Super Cubs while sitting in a tent miles above the Arctic Circle were surreal and indelible. The experience for my nephew was profound.”
When the Osbornes returned to Mississippi, Brady said he wanted to become a professional pilot. “I told him I would help him and we both signed up for private pilot ground school and began lessons at Madison Flyers in Madison,” he said. Brady earned a private pilot certificate and enrolled in Delta State University’s aviation program. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in aviation, and is a commercial pilot and flight instructor who will be taking his airline transport pilot checkride in September, Osborne said.
Osborne also earned his private pilot certificate—in a Cessna 180—“and I haven’t managed to ground loop it yet.” He said his CFI, Dann Fabian, had never before signed off on a high performance endorsement and tailwheel endorsement before a solo.
Osborne’s son Carter, 20, is the family’s newest private pilot. He took his checkride in July. Carter is a chemical engineering student at Mississippi State University. “I think the most proud were the Ellis family in Alaska, who remember Carter as an 11-year-old wide-eyed young man being flown into the Arctic wilderness,” Osborne said.
Twin sons Logan and Will, 16, are student pilots “and are dedicated to getting it done,” Osborne said. “Their training is tied to their performance in school, and this is a great motivator for them to keep their grades strong.”
The most rewarding aspect of being a part of the general aviation community is the camaraderie among pilots at all levels of experience, Osborne said. “I can truly say that my family and I have met many wonderful and encouraging people of every age along the way…I believe this bond that offers encouragement and is not exclusive or elitist is the greatest strength in growing the GA community.
“We are proud to be a part of it and as GA pilots, we are the most important stewards for its growth,” Osborne said.