Everyday, hundreds of flights go in and out of William P. Hobby Airport. Watching planes in the area can become mundane, but not for everyone. For some, seeing those planes can fascinate, motivate, and eventually result in a career in aviation. However, it helps to have some hands-on experience along the way for that to happen. As it turns out, activities within the Hobby District did exactly that for Jeremy Jenkins.
Jenkins grew up just northwest of Hobby Airport, and used to watch the planes landing and taking off. He imagined what it would be like to be in one, daydreaming of flying among the clouds. His interest in aviation started at a very young age, drawing pictures of airplanes when he was as young as 6 years old.
That early interest grew, and when he was 11 his cousin took him to the airport and let him climb into a Cessna. She then gave him some manuals.
“To anyone else they would be boring textbooks,” said Jenkins. “But to me, they were the path to becoming an astronaut.”
Though not yet an astronaut, Jenkins is content with his current career as a jet pilot. Those “boring textbooks” taught him about airport operations, navigation, and more. He thinks of that early period as the first step in making aviation his career.
Jenkins eventually went to Sterling High School, and entered what they then called their professional pilot program. It was also during this time that he attended HobbyFest as part of a field trip in 2005, and spent even more time climbing around on planes.
“I remember climbing on planes, and talking with the fire department and they were doing drills for us. It was a very cool day,” Jenkins reminisces.
It was without a doubt, a formative day for him. He recognizes how important it was for him and for other kids there, who without HobbyFest, would never have had the close-up experience with the planes.
He also saw the Blue Angels perform at Ellington Field. All of these activities combined resulted in the aviation bug completely taking over his life, and of the several hundred fellow students to enter Sterling’s aviation program, Jeremy was one of the half dozen that graduated with a pilot’s license.
Jenkins realized he wanted to dream bigger, and told folks he wanted to be a Blue Angel. That’s no small task, and if he was serious, he was going to have to get into the Naval Academy.
Jenkins received help from the Black Pilots Association, with Hobby District chairman Danny Perkins assisting as well. Both Perkins and former Houston city attorney Anthony Hall really went to bat for him, writing letters of recommendation and making calls. Eventually Jenkins received a letter of nomination from Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.
After attending a one-year course in 2009 at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, Rhode Island, Jenkins went to the Naval Academy in Annapolis. There he continued to excel, and eventually graduated from the Academy in 2013.
From there he went to the cradle of naval aviation, Pensacola, Florida, to attend naval preflight indoctrination before an assignment at the Corpus Naval Air Station.
There he flew T-6 Texans, turbo prop trainers, and after finishing that course he was selected for intermediate jets. The latter resulted in his current assignment to Kingsville Naval Air Station and VT-21 where he is now stationed flying the T-45 Goshawk with the Fighting Redhawks.
His training there will end early in 2016, at which point he’ll likely be reassigned to an aircraft carrier where he’ll be flying the vaunted twin engine supersonic, all-weather, carrier-capable multirole combat jet, the F-18 Hornet. He’s come such a long way from those days admiring the planes at Hobby Airport as a child.
While his success is the result of commitment and desire, he is quick to recognize all the help he’s been given.
“I can use all the help I can get – I need it,” said Jenkins. “I definitely had a lot of encouragement, especially from folks like Danny (Perkins) and Anthony Hall. I definitely have a whole family that’s been sort of grooming me, and they’re all from the Hobby area too.”
Jenkins is currently a Lieutenant Junior Grade, and looking forward to the next phase of his Naval career.