Zander Hamilton, a member of the Red-Tailed Hawks Flying Club based in Mukilteo, has been selected to attend a new U.S. Navy flight academy for 11th- and 12th-graders. Hamilton, 17, joined the club in 2018. (Jesse D. Hayes IV / Red-Tailed Hawks Flying Club)

Zander Hamilton, a member of the Red-Tailed Hawks Flying Club based in Mukilteo, has been selected to attend a new U.S. Navy flight academy for 11th- and 12th-graders. Hamilton, 17, joined the club in 2018. (Jesse D. Hayes IV / Red-Tailed Hawks Flying Club)

Mukilteo flying club member, 17, wins spot at Navy pilot school

Zander Hamilton, a member of the Red-Tailed Hawks, was selected to attend an elite program for high schoolers.

MUKILTEO —When the U.S. Navy launched a program last year to boost pilot diversity, it was limited to members of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.

But the leader of a Mukilteo flying club for teens wanted the Navy to go one better and open it up to all high school students.

Jesse D Hayes IV, founder of the Red-Tailed Hawks Flying Club, got his wish this spring and more: A club member earned a slot in the elite program.

The Navy’s Summer Flight Academy is now open to all 11th- and 12th-graders, not just members of the Navy and Marine Corps junior ROTC.

The program allows students to earn their private pilot license and five college credits.

Zander Hamilton, a member of the Mukilteo Club since 2018, is one of 20 11th- and 12th-graders around the country who’ve been selected to participate in the program.

This year’s intensive eight-week session will be held at Delaware State University.

The Red-Tailed Hawks introduces underserved youth — Blacks, women and other people of color — to aviation, science and aerospace careers.

“The commander of Naval Air Force diversity and inclusion has been a supporter of the Red-Tailed Hawks and the Black Pilots of America,” said Hayes, an Air Force veteran and Boeing engineer who founded the Mukilteo club in 2013 to reach a broader group of kids.

“Last year they only selected kids in Junior ROTC,” Hayes said. “I called up the commander and asked him: ‘What would it take to open this up to the Red-Tailed Hawks?’”

Hayes was surprised by the response.

“He was crazy open to the idea, and then said — send me a name,” Hayes said. “Zander was at the top of the list.”

Zander Hamilton. (Jesse D. Hayes IV / Red-Tailed Hawks Flying Club)

Zander Hamilton. (Jesse D. Hayes IV / Red-Tailed Hawks Flying Club)

Commander Chris “Frozone” Williams, a Navy fighter pilot and director of diversity, equity and inclusion, said the scholarship program aims to expose “exceptional minority students to a career path that currently lacks diversity.”

“Zander Hamilton has what it takes to be a leader in the field of aviation, and the Navy is honored to play a part in his personal and professional journey,” Williams said.

About 14% of the nation’s population identified as Black in 2019, according to the Pew Research Center. The percentage of Black pilots in the military is believed to be in the single digits. in many cases, less than 2%. In the private sector, just 3.4% of commercial pilots in the U.S. are Black, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Students will receive a minimum of 32 hours of classroom instruction and 49 hours of flight training, including 17 hours of solo flight.

The program, valued at about $24,000 per person, is offered at no cost to students, Williams said.

Hamilton moved to the Pacific Northwest from Tennessee with his family in 2018 and discovered the Red-Tailed Hawks through a friend.

“They give young aviators, especially ones from marginalized groups,” a chance “to get a feel for aviation,” said Hamilton, 17.

He completed the club’s flight program, which offers a head start in getting a private pilot’s license, he said.

Now he’s looking at aviation as a possible career.

Hamilton will be a senior this fall at Eastside Catholic School in Sammamish.

“This is a really good move,” said Hamilton of the Navy program.

“Aviation is a lot of white males,” Hamilton said. “This opens it up to more people and gives everyone more of a fair chance.”

Hamilton has flown Cessna 152 and Cessna 172 single-engine airplanes from Paine Field in Everett, Boeing Field in Seattle and the Tacoma Narrows airport. He has not yet flown alone.

This year’s eight-week summer flight academy takes place from June 12 through August 5.

“My school ends on June 10 and I’ll be in Delaware on June 12,” Hamilton said.

Hayes is exuberant.

“We’re pretty excited by this opportunity,” Hayes said. “We hope he does well so he can pave the way for others to go.”

Janice Podsada: 425-339-3097;; Twitter: @JanicePods.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Clyde Shavers, left, and Greg Gilday.
Shavers wins by narrow margin as Dems flip seat in 10th District

Democrat Clyde Shavers won by 211 votes against incumbent state Rep. Greg Gilday. It’s close enough for a recount.

Edmonds man hospitalized after shooting in Arlington

The man, 30, was found Monday night in the 500 block of N. Macleod Avenue after reports of an assault.

Pedestrian killed in hit-and-run collision on Highway 99

Glenn Starks was walking on the shoulder south of Everett when a car struck him, police say. The car’s driver ran away from the scene.

Christmas in Seattle comes with activities for all ages, from festive lights for kids to the silly, boozy Seattle SantaCon. Seattle SantaCon photo
4 Ways to celebrate Christmas in Seattle this year

It’s never a sure bet whether Seattle will be able to celebrate… Continue reading

Police: Snohomish man fled to Oregon after Arlington shooting

The wounded man, 30, was left in critical condition. The suspect, 39, was arrested for investigation of first-degree assault.

A skier heads down the mountain on the opening day of ski season at Stevens Pass Ski Area on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, near Skykomish, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
After bumpy seasons, Stevens Pass gets a smooth opening day

Powder hounds took the day off, or called in “sick” with ski fever, to hit the slopes at the resort Friday.

Monroe High School (Monroe School District)
‘Set for the next four years’: Monroe schools levy officially passes

The levy funds 14% of the district’s budget including athletics, extracurricular activities and some transportation services.

The Washington State Patrol was investigating a fatal crash involving multiple vehicles Thursday on Highway 530 near Oso. (Washington State Patrol)
Darrington man identified in fatal 4-vehicle crash on Highway 530

Ryan Gray was driving east of Arlington when he rear-ended a Jeep, according to the Washington State Patrol.

A snow plow clears snow off of 92nd Avenue West on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022, in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Another dusting, with more snow on the way in Snohomish County?

Light snow showers hit the area Friday morning. Another system was coming in the evening. And yet another next week.

Most Read