Cameron Jaxheimer, 22, first experienced flight as a Young Eagle; a decade later, the Endeavor Air first officer plans to perform loops and rolls in front of thousands at the world’s largest gathering of aviation enthusiasts at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The University of North Dakota commercial aviation graduate, career pilot, and aerobatic performer who is being coached by Sean D. Tucker is living his dream and inspiring others to pursue their own dreams.
“He’s passionate about his craft,” said David Sniadak, the communications manager for Endeavor Air, a Delta Air Lines subsidiary. “There’s a real commitment to safety and we fully support what he’s doing right now.”
He raced through his ground school and soloed at the age of 16. At the University of North Dakota, a chance encounter with Tucker after a speaking presentation led to a paid summer internship with Team Oracle. Jaxheimer recalled that he lobbied to drive Tucker around the college campus, which included a stop for coffee, and the two hit it off.
“He was so convicted of purpose that he impressed me,” Tucker told AOPA before strapping into his custom-built Oracle Challenger III. “The youth of America are our precious jewels,” continued Tucker. “This kid didn’t come from a wealthy means but he was passionate” about aviation. Tucker realized that he had spotted a diamond in the rough and set out to polish the young pilot into a treasured gem. "My job is to open doors for him," added Tucker, "and for him to be better than me. Cameron had a dream and nothing stopped that dream."
“I never thought Sean would be my mentor—he’s a legend. Being able to learn about his take on safety has been a great honor,” said Jaxheimer from the aerobatic performers hangar at EAA AirVenture.
Jaxheimer recalled that he was laser-focused on an airline career. When the airshow favorite later offered him a full-time position on the airshow circuit, Jaxheimer turned it down. After he graduated in 2015, Jaxheimer took a year off to perfect the airshow maneuvers and began entering aerobatic competitions. “I figured, ‘Why not?’”
In the 2016 World Advanced Aerobatics Championships in Poland, the American team finished second. “Only the French beat us,” said Jaxheimer. He placed fifth overall out of 55 competitive aerobatics pilots.
“Cameron placed fifth in the world—the highest American—and he’s the perfect example of our precious jewels,” Tucker elaborated. “He’s going to be a world champion aerobatic pilot, but he’s going to be a world champion airline pilot first.”
The trim, tall, and clean-cut Jaxheimer landed a position at Endeavor Air, which schedules 700 daily flights to 125 cities in the United States and Canada. Rather than flying tandem with one passenger in the Extra 300, he is instead responsible for 50 passengers in a Canadair CRJ-200 regional jet. “My days off allow me to fly aerobatics and they are my passion and my hobby.”
Jaxheimer explained that his airline career feeds his need for aerobatics—and that performing aerobatics offers a skill set that transfers to his role as a career pilot. He cited safety, precision, and good decision making as key traits for both endeavors.
“Commercial aviation opens up the world,” added Jaxheimer, who hopes to recruit future pilots to follow in his footsteps, as he is doing behind his mentor, Tucker. “When they [young people] see a 22-year-old flying an airshow, they can see that there’s always a way to realize your goals at an early age.”
AOPA’s You Can Fly initiatives recognize the importance of building the pilot community through programs that include high school learning curriculum, flying clubs, rusty pilot seminars, and other pilot-support mechanisms that make flying safe, fun, and affordable.
The goal of AOPA’s You Can Fly High School Initiative is to help build and sustain aviation-based science, technology, engineering, and math programs and provide a quality workforce to the aviation industry.
Jaxheimer said his performances are an “awesome” chance to share aerobatic competition with young people to get them excited about pursuing an aviation career. “It’s a great opportunity to inspire the youth in aviation and show them that you really can achieve anything you set your mind to.”