Young Cadets Take Flight
At just 17 years old, Jaleel Connelly is on his way to becoming the youngest pilot in the island.
“I hope to be one of the best pilots the world will ever see,” the cadet says during a recent interview with JIS News.
Fresh out of high school, with eight Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects, all at Grade One, Jaleel is just one exam away from acquiring his private pilot licence.
He completed the gruelling one-year training course at the Caribbean Aviation Training Centre (CATC) located at the Tinson Pen Aerodrome in Kingston just two weeks ago.
Though he will still has some way to go before he qualifies as a commercial airline pilot, which allows him to fly for airlines, air taxi operators, charter companies, and so on, acquiring the private pilot licence will be a major accomplishment.
Attainment of this certification, which the CATC regards as “the first rung on the ladder of aviation training and development,” allows Jaleel to be pilot-in-command of a single-engine aircraft for recreational and/or personal use in generally good or fair weather conditions. He may also transport passengers, but not for compensation or hire.
Jaleel’s interest in aviation began when he joined the Jamaica Combined Cadet Force (JCCF) at age 11 while attending Kingston College. JCCF offers a pilot training programme through CATC.
At 16 years old, the age required for enrolment, the young cadet began the student pilot training programme. Cadets take part in aviation camps throughout the year, which fast-tracks some of the courses.
The training was strenuous, and Jaleel thought of giving up, but it was his unwavering drive to attain his goals that kept him motivated to complete the journey.
“At first, when I (started), it was the worst for me. I just wanted to leave. After a while, I got used to the training and all the camps and all the different sessions that we had to go through, and I realised that it was for my own good, my own personal development,” he tells JIS News.
The level-headed young man further shares that he is also driven by a desire to assist his mother financially and make her proud.
“Growing up, I saw that she struggled a lot. I want to be there for her, help her through life and I vowed that I have to be successful so that I can give back to her, and make sure she lives the life she deserves,” he says.
Jaleel, who is Guyanese by parentage and birth, says his will to achieve greatness is also influenced by his modest beginnings, growing up in the poorest part of Eckles, Guyana, and the fact that his father left when he was just months old. He came to Jamaica at about age 10.