A Continuing Young Eagles Success Story – From Young Eagle to Fighter Pilot
(Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico June 13, 2006 – Source: EAA Young Eagles News)
“I am currently an active duty Air Force officer and fighter pilot stationed at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., flying the F-16.”
First Lieutenant Kenyatta H. Ruffin is a pilot in the 523rd Fighter Squadron, Crusaders. The Crusaders fly the Block 30 F-16C+ and specialize in both air-to-air and precision air-to-ground employment.
“The demands of my job are high, but I love every opportunity to encourage and mentor younger people regarding aviation. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it weren’t for volunteers such as those in the EAA
Young Eagles that devote their time and effort to teach others about aviation.” On Sept. 27, 1998, Lt. Ruffin received his Young Eagles flight while part of the Civil Air Patrol.
“Since I was a young child I have been interested in aviation. It began at the age of 5 after the Space Shuttle Challenger accident. At that time, I started to focus most of my efforts on becoming an astronaut. I read every book I could find on space exploration, attended Space Camp, and decided that my career path would involve being an Air Force fighter pilot.
In the summer of 1995, at the age of 14, I experienced my first major step towards accomplishing my goals by soloing a glider in the Gary Flight Academy (GFA). For the next three years, GFA would continue to play a major part in my development as I earned my private pilot license in both single engine airplanes and gliders through their program. (The GFA was supported in large part by the Organization of Black Airline Pilot and the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.).”
Excelling in math and science, Lt. Ruffin attended the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy where he became involved in the Civil Air Patrol, student government, and other activities. He received his private pilot’s license at the age of 16 and his Certified Flight Instructor’s license (glider) at 18.
“July 1, 1999 was a day that changed my life forever as I embarked on my military career. I soon learned that the Academy is not about me at all and altered my goals by focusing on serving my country with excellence and honor. I made it my passion to develop into a leader with character, motivation, and competence.” Lt. Ruffin graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he earned a degree in Aeronautical Engineering with a minor in Military Strategic Studies.
He was also vice president for his class, the Class of 2003.
As a cadet, Lt. Ruffin was the cadet commander of the 94th Flight Trainin Squadron. He also advised the active duty officers on the operation of the squadron’s 20 gliders, “soar-for-all”, instructor upgrade, and advanced programs. He was qualified as a basic acrobatic, spin and standards/evaluation instructor pilot and has his Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) and commercial certificates.
“Although the possibility exists to be a career officer and astronaut, I have shifted my focus to officership and tactical aviation. I have wanted to fly the Viper (the unofficial, but more popular designation) since junior high and am simply overjoyed that this goal has come true.”
Lt. Ruffin currently has over 1200 total hours logged in civilian and military aircraft.
“I believe that what I am doing now (tactical aviation) is the pinnacle of airmanship and Young Eagles was the start to where I am.”With future goals set on being a superior officer and tactically proficient fighter pilot, Lt. Ruffin has a lot to look forward to.