As an aspiring aviation engineer, 16-year-old Brooklyn Cross dreams big.
“The ultimate goal is NASA,” Cross said. “I want to do rocket engineering for them.”
Thanks to some local connections, the Puyallup teen is well on her way to that goal.
The ultimate goal is NASA. I want to do rocket engineering for them.
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Brooklyn was selected to be a student reporter at Alaska Airlines Aviation Day in Seattle on Saturday. The ninth annual event aimed to “inspire youth in our community and help them realize the potential of their abilities by creating a path to careers in aviation and aerospace,” according to Alaska Airlines’ website.
Brooklyn and other students across the state toured planes and jets, experienced a flight simulator and explored the creation of aircraft. For Brooklyn, the event was about getting others her age excited about aviation.
At 15, Brooklyn entered the Running Start program at Pierce College. Soon after, she joined TeenFlight, an aviation program at Thun Field on South Hill that teaches students to build an aircraft — and then how to fly it.
It was through TeenFlight that Brooklyn became involved with Alaska Airlines, which sponsors the program. After Brooklyn was selected as a student reporter, she was paired with a mentor, Alaska Airlines engineer Stephanie Gardner.
“I want every opportunity to introduce the next generation of aviation engineers,” said Gardner, who’s been with Alaska Airlines for over a year and formerly with Boeing for 19 years.
Aviation Day is one way that Alaska Airlines is tackling the need for future pilots and aviation engineers. The event drew thousands on Saturday.
“(Students) get hands-on experience all day,” Gardner said about the event. “It’s a great way to bring awareness to careers in aviation, especially to those who haven’t been exposed to them … It’s a great opportunity.”
(Students) get hands-on experience all day. It’s a great way to bring awareness to careers in aviation, especially to those who haven’t been exposed to them … It’s a great opportunity.
Stephanie Gardner, engineer at Alaska Airlines
Not only is it important to encourage teens to pursue careers in aviation, but to encourage young women in particular.
“I’d like to see more women in engineering,” Gardner said. “We can bring different perspectives.”
As a mentor, Gardner showed Brooklyn the ropes at the Alaska Airlines Hangar at SeaTac International Airport, where Gardner works. Brooklyn said that it was nice to be able to follow in Gardner’s footsteps.
“I’ve always really liked engineering and building things,” Brooklyn said.
For as long as she can remember, Brooklyn loved to create. Brooklyn’s mom, Jennifer Cross, homeschooled her five children, all of whom went on to study in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
“We’re a really nerdy family,” Cross said. “With homeschooling, you can direct where your teaching goes. (Brooklyn) has always been interested in science.”
(Brooklyn) wants to go to Mars. She has a passion for rockets, and we’ll find a way to fuel it.
Jennifer Cross, Brooklyn’s mom
Brooklyn remembered building foam gliders, or toy planes, when she was younger. With her siblings, she’d fly them from her grandfather’s balcony in an attempt to get them to land inside a ceiling fan.
“They’d modify the planes to get them in there,” Cross said.
It planted the seeds for a passion for aviation. Now, as a student at TeenFlight, Brooklyn works with her classmates building a RV-12 TF4 aircraft. When it’s done, she plans to get her sports pilot license to fly it.
After Brooklyn finishes at Pierce College, she wants to enter the University of Washington Aeronautics and Astronautics Engineering program.
One day, Cross wants to work for NASA, but her dream doesn’t stop there.
“She wants to go to Mars,” added her mother. “She has a passion for rockets, and we’ll find a way to fuel it.”