Alumnus living his dream as a pilot

Dan Garrison always had a fascination with anything that flies.

“My dad was not a pilot, but I got my aviation bug from him,” Garrison said. “He would always take the family to air shows and would occasionally get me a ride in a small plane at the local airport.”

Garrison studied aircraft and built model airplanes “every spare minute” until he could look into the sky and identify most aircraft with a quick glance.

“After my enlistment was up in the Air Force, I decided it was time for me to learn to fly,” he said. “I started looking at flying careers and it seemed that a degree was almost always required to fly for the airlines. I researched schools that offered aviation programs and was surprised that Henderson State had a top notch program and was relatively nearby.”

Garrison toured the Henderson campus and the aviation facilities, and met with faculty before he applied for admission.

“When I received the letter stating that I was accepted into the school and the program, I was more than a little excited,” Garrison said.

He graduated in 1998 with a degree in aviation (professional pilot track) and went to work for Central Flying Service as a lineman and flight instructor. It wasn’t long before Garrison began flying freight planes out of Little Rock.

“After six months, I was offered a job flying a corporate aircraft. It was a turboprop, which meant it burned jet fuel, and I knew that was something the airlines looked for,” he said. “After about a year, I got a job at Flight Options flying my first jet.”

In 2006, Garrison got his “dream job” when he was hired by Southwest Airlines.

“It has been wonderful, and flying the Boeing 737 is amazing,” he said. “This June, I was upgraded to captain and now fly out of the Denver base.”

Garrison credits Henderson for much of his success as a pilot.

“Henderson provided me all of the tools I needed to become a successful professional pilot,” he said. “The courses I received laid the groundwork for building my knowledge for not only basic and advanced flying skills, but also for the complex world of aviation law, weather, and the air traffic control system.

“While at Henderson, I received my private, commercial, and instructors license in both single and multi-engine aircraft. I left Henderson with all of the skills and knowledge that I would need to start my career.”

Garrison advises current aviation students to “study hard, fly safe, and enjoy your time in college. And remember the guys and girls around you. Aviation is a small world and you will see these people again. You may even be asking them for a job one day.”