From Russia With Love: KSU Student Embraces Flying
Written by Ryan Landolph on May 9, 2018
Chances are you don’t remember your first flight. It’s insignificant. You’ve been on plenty of airplanes since that first trip in the sky. But for twenty-two-year-old Evan Gilmore, his first flight remains a vivid memory and strong beacon of his future. His journey from an orphanage overseas to a future commercial pilot is far from over…yet one that nearly never got off the ground.
If there are two things Kent State student Evan Gilmore loves more than the common man, it’s the Baltimore Orioles and airplanes. It’s been twenty years since Gilmore was adopted from Russia and brought to the United States. But his quest for knowledge and admiration of flying dates back that far.
“My first ever flight was from Perm, Russia to Moscow. And that was on a Soviet-made aircraft: a Tupolev 134,” Gilmore said.
The route. The plane. The make. Gilmore knows it all. He makes sure to let me know the airline, as well: Aeroflot.
Ever since that first flight, Gilmore has been infatuated with airplanes. Growing up in Northeast Ohio, he’s seen planes fly overhead into Cleveland-Hopkins Airport for years.
“As far as I can remember, I’ve always been interested in airplanes,” Gilmore said. “Even before I could talk, my mom tells me stories of when a plane would fly over, I would point up at the sky at it.”
Every child is fond of something. They point it out to their family every time it appears. But this was different. It didn’t take long for Gilmore to display a strong sense of understanding and passion about planes.
“When I was in, let’s see, first grade, everyone had to take a poll,” Gilmore said. “And everyone was asking ‘what’s your favorite TV show, what are your favorite animals.’ Well, my poll was ‘what was your favorite airline.'”
Gilmore met his childhood best friend Ryan Jones one year later. Jones recalls one of his first encounters with Gilmore, immediately recognizing his obsession with planes.
“I remember in second grade, in his room, he used to have little toy planes – well, I guess they weren’t toys, they were more like figurines – of very detailed planes from different companies and different sizes and stuff like that,” Jones said. “Flying’s always been a part of his life even before he could actually fly a plane.”
As Gilmore grew up, his love of airplanes never went away. Once he went to high school, he found himself dying to take a seat in the cockpit and fly a plane himself. He was fortunate enough to get the opportunity, flying a Cessna 172 at an airport in Mentor, with the guide of a flight instructor.
“We just went up and flew for about an hour,” Gilmore said. “He showed me some stuff about the plane. He let me fly the airplane at different parts of the flight. And at the point, I realized that I wanted to take flight lessons.”
Despite playing both hockey and baseball, Gilmore always found time to focus on flying after his first experience in the air. He says he tried to fly five days per week during the summer, as long as his schedule permitted.
But life changed dramatically when Gilmore enrolled at Kent State. He began his studies as a hospitality management major, a career he believed he would enjoy after working at Chick-fil-A in high school. He only made it a year-and-a-half, though, before he had enough.
“I was sitting in a class one day, and we were talking about bedsheets and thread counts. And I was just sitting there and I just realized, this isn’t what I want to do with my life,” Gilmore said. “I don’t know, it just kinda hit me that I’m not going after my dream. And plus, ya know, walking to class every day when it’s nice weather, I would see a Kent plane flying over and that always kinda stirred something inside me.”
Right after that class, Gilmore called his parents and told them he wanted to switch his major to aeronautics. Within a few days, the change was finalized. He says his parents were very supportive, but there were still problems ahead. As Gilmore began his transition into one of the toughest majors, his past began to catch up with him.
“I guess the social workers that had to be with me and my teachers have always said I’ve been behind, and they think it’s because of that – being from Russia,” Gilmore said. “Because I never had a strong developmental stage. I’ve always had to work very hard. In middle school, and high school, even, I would have to work extremely hard just to get a ‘C.'”
Gilmore says because of this, he has developed a much stronger work ethic than he believes he would’ve had. It has been something he’s needed to achieve success.
“Since switching to aeronautics, I have never worked harder in my life at anything,” Gilmore said. “It’s a very challenging major, but at the same time, it’s very rewarding. You know, when you’re sitting in class, grinding it out, taking a test, and in the moment, it seems like ‘why did I make this switch,’ but in the afternoon, when you start up the engine and you take off, you fly, and you realize, I did the right thing.”
Jones knows Gilmore as well as anyone – they’ve been friends for nearly fifteen years – and he too believes Gilmore has done the right thing. He sees a clear difference in his buddy from his first year-and-a-half at Kent to now.
“When he went back to something he always talked about – he always dreamed about being able to fly, which I mentioned earlier – he’s definitely more fun and as positive as he can be,” Jones said.
For a person as dedicated to flying as Gilmore is, it’s shocking to think his career almost never, for lack of a better word, took off. He is grateful to have come to his senses and return to what he loves. Gilmore also knows there are others out there like him, afraid of testing the flying waters. But he believes they can’t go wrong with trying.
“I guess the cheesy answer is chase your dream, but, it’s true cause if you are sitting at a desk in a cubicle twenty years from now and you think, ‘wow, what would’ve happened if I maybe would’ve done a discovery flight or pursued flying,’ then you don’t want to live with that regret for the rest of your life cause it’s definitely a very rewarding career,” Gilmore said.
Gilmore recently received his private pilot’s license and is in the process of completing his instrument rating. He plans to flight instruct at Kent for a few years before applying to a regional airliner to fly commercially. His top two choices? Delta and Southwest.