While some students will drive or take the train in order to get out of Andover, Davis Barrow ’20 has a different method of transportation: his plane. Barrow has been a certified pilot since last spring, and stores his Cessna 172R at the Lawrence Airport when it’s not in use.
Barrow has been interested in aviation since elementary school and has only become more invested in the piloting community since then. This is partially due to Barrow’s older brother, who is also a pilot and whom Barrow flies with to the Outer Banks and the First Flight Airport in Kitty Hawk, N.C., Barrow’s hometown.
In an email to The Phillipian, Barrow wrote, “I’ve always been inspired by the beautiful engineering of aircraft. Since I was in kindergarten, I’ve dreamt of having my pilot certificate. Once my brother became a pilot, I witnessed what a tight-knit and loving community it was, and I simply couldn’t wait to join.”
Barrow has flown numerous times in the Andover area. His favorite place to fly his plane is Martha’s Vineyard, and he has occasionally invited friends onto his aircraft. According to Barrow, he tries to spend as much time in the air as possible, with a yearly range of 50 to 100 hours.
At the beginning of the school year, Barrow was able to fly through the “Hudson Exclusion Zone.” He described how this independence was particularly impactful while crossing the Hudson River.
“Earlier in the school year, I flew through New York City to visit my brother in Philadelphia. Over the Hudson River, there is a stretch of airspace called the ‘Hudson Exclusion Zone.’ In this corridor of airspace, pilots can fly right over the Hudson River without talking to air traffic control. It is a special experience that demonstrates the incredible freedom we Americans have as you fly right next to the Statue of Liberty and directly over George Washington bridge,” wrote Barrow.
Andy Zeng ’20, a good friend of Barrow’s, said he was “shocked” when he first discovered that Barrow had his pilot’s license, as Zeng didn’t even know how to drive a car at the time. However, he now flies with Barrow around once or twice a term and claimed that Barrow’s focus and attention to detail provides reassurance to his friends when in the air.
“I’ve flown with him multiple times. The experience was eye-opening. You get to see Boston from afar and Andover from above. Although the seats can be a little tight, it is all worth it for the view…I really appreciate the way Davis treats everything so seriously, so meticulously, and it allows us to feel safe and relaxed while he’s flying,” Zeng said.
Even though Barrow enjoys several aspects of piloting, including learning from his brother, having fun with his friends, and flying around different cities, safety is always his top priority. Becoming a good pilot is a learning experience that does not simply stop after certification, Barrow explained.
Barrow wrote, “Flying, while extremely safe, is quite unforgiving of carelessness and foolish mistakes. To address this reality, we rely on numerous checklists. Before every flight, I use a checklist to examine the aircraft. Once in flight, I again use a checklist to ensure I’ve completed every necessary task…Additionally, pilots are always learning. The examiner who gave me my certificate told me, ‘Son, this is a license to learn.’ I’ve seen how that is a very true statement—I’m constantly presented with new situations and tasked with studying new regulations or policies to ensure the safety of my passengers.”
Another friend of Barrow’s, John Michael Kinney ’20, was inspired by Barrow to get his own pilot’s license through Barrow’s recounting of his own experiences with flying. Kinney recalled a particular day where Barrow flew to a frozen lake in Maine. Like Zeng, Kinney also expressed an appreciation for the caution Barrow exercises during flights. In particular, Kinney admired Burrow’s rigorous preflight safety ritual before flying.
Kinney said “It’s a great experience to fly; it really gives you a new perspective on everything from the air. It’s interesting to watch Davis do all the preflight planning and checks, and I’m glad that he takes it all so seriously.”
Being a pilot is something that requires a lot of training and experience, which are difficult to pursue during busy school weeks. When asked about the advice he would give to Andover students who are aiming to explore more challenging extracurricular interests, Barrow wrote that he believes all students should make an effort to chase after their dreams.
“Sometimes, at Andover, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day hustle and forget [or] ignore pursuing personal activities. I’ve found that making time to accomplish my personal goal of becoming a pilot has been incredibly beneficial in my school and business work. The necessities for precision and being meticulous in flying have definitely helped me make fewer careless errors in class. I would advise other students to make whatever sacrifices necessary to pursue their passions, as they will return dividends in the long run,” Barrow wrote.
Zeng expressed admiration for Barrow’s free spirit and how his flying helps him to take advantage of time with his friends.
“Our trips can be pretty spontaneous… Davis knows that the time we share on this earth is limited, and if you don’t take journeys with the people you love, then you are not living life to the fullest. His carefree lifestyle is something I envy deeply,” said Zeng.