High in the Sky: Quincy Native Returns Home as Volunteer Pilot

Nov. 4, 2019

NORWOOD — When Corwin Huang was 16 years old, he didn't have a ton of direction, he said.

A sophomore at Boston College High School, the Quincy native spent most of his time at home, school or at summer camp with Crossroads for Kids, a group that works with underprivileged youth across the state. Huang wasn't exactly sure where his life was headed, until he took a look at it from 6,500 feet in the air.

"When I first went up in a plane, I had no idea it would be such a life-changing moment for me," he said.

Through a local nonprofit called Above the Clouds, Huang took off in a small, four-seater plane from Norwood Regional Airport in 2014 and hasn't looked back since. The organization, founded in Norwood in 2012, then helped Huang pursue his passion of flying by training him for his first solo flight and, eventually, steering him toward a future in aviation.

A senior at Saint Louis University in Missouri, Huang is weeks away from becoming a certified flight instructor and hopefully just a few years from accomplishing his dream of becoming a commercial pilot. His life has changed a lot since he first flew with Above the Clouds, and on Sunday he returned to the Norwood airport as a volunteer pilot with the group.

Want news like this sent straight to your inbox? Head over to PatriotLedger.com to sign up for alerts and make sure you never miss a thing. You pick the news you want, we deliver."Corwin really embodies so much of what is good about Above the Clouds," Gary Oberstein, the nonprofit's founder and director, said. "We aren't trying to product pilots, we're just an organization that brings joy to kids. But if along the way some of our kids get bit by the bug, that's awesome and we will facilitate that."

The organization works with a dozen other groups — like Crossroads for Kids, the YMCA and Big Brothers Big Sisters — to find at-risk youth they can take into the air, and away from their troubles, for even just a few hours. Huang's passenger, 15-year-old K'Raun Forbes, was a recommendation from Crossroads — the same organization that got Huang connected with Above the Clouds five years ago.

Wearing his Above the Clouds bomber jacket Sunday, Huang reflected on what it meant to have his time as a teenager come full circle.

"I feel very honored. (Crossroads) was my life every summer, and everything they do is a push for students to be something bigger," Huang said. "I didn't really expect I'd be able to help them as an alumni. I stayed up a lot last night thinking about it. It really is an honor."

Just before his scheduled wheels-up time, Forbes and two representatives from Crossroads arrived at Norwood Airport and were greeted by a dozen volunteers holding signs, waving pom-poms and doling out high-fives. From there, Huang and Forbes got to know each other and mapped out exactly where their 40-minutes sight-seeing flight would take them.

Forbes, a New England Patriots fan, said he wanted to see Gillette Stadium, maybe wave to his mom while she was at work at Boston Medical Center and see his Holbrook house from the sky. Grinning from ear to ear, Huang was happy to oblige.

"I've never flown a plane before and now I get to fly one over my city," Forbes said. "That's crazy."

From there, it wasn't long before the pair was cozy in the small plane and ready to take off. Most of the kids helped by the organization have never even been outside of Boston, Oberstein said, let alone seen their house from the front seat of an airplane.

Above the Clouds runs three different programs: Dream Flyers, Discovery and Cadet. Everybody in the program starts in Dream Flyers, which takes students between the ages of 6 and 18 up in the air. That's where it ends for most participants, but for those who get extremely excited about flying, the Discovery program matches them with a mentor and lets them go up for flights about once a month. Students who want to continue from there enter the Cadet program, which trains them to eventually fly solo.

"It's hard for kids to take off at the end of that runway and not think 'If I can do this, I can do anything,'" Oberstein said. "What they do after our program we don't care, as long as they've made that connection between hard work and results, they gain confidence and they invest in themselves."

Huang, 21, went through every step of the Above the Clouds program on his way to a full-time career in aviation, and he credits the organization for keeping him grounded and setting him on the path he's so passionate about.

"Hopefully K'Raun feels like he can do something in aviation after this, because the field has so much to offer," Huang said. "If I can help someone be inspired the way I was . . . That's all I want."

Reach Mary Whitfill at [email protected].



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