A Buckeye's Soaring Adventures: Scott van Ooyen
September 18, 2012
Scott van Ooyen was 9 when he first stepped aboard a KLM Boeing 747 to travel to The Netherlands with his family. He was fascinated with the airplane and knew he wanted to fly a “monster” like that someday. Staying true to his course, his goal never wavered. After high school, he studied to become a pilot.
Van Ooyen chose Ohio State for the renowned aviation engineering program and joined the university’s Flight Team, where he served as team captain for two years. While he describes both his education and flight training as top notch, he saw one area of need: mentors to answer students’ questions and help them navigate any obstacles.
“When I was a freshman, I had many questions about a pilot’s career and few places to find the answers,” he said. “I vowed to return and help students in any way I could.”
Van Ooyen graduated in 1987 and quickly made good on his vow. He returned to campus the next year as a volunteer coach for the Ohio State Flight Team, a role he has continued ever since. For several of those years, he has led the Flight Team as head coach.
In addition to time, van Ooyen provides financial support to help students develop flying, simulator, and aeronautical knowledge that sets them apart from their peers. He also stays connected to his alma mater through the President’s Club, which he credits with providing insight into the university’s goals.
Now a captain and check airman for Southwest Airlines, van Ooyen typically flies three days in a row and then has four days off. He describes being a pilot as a great career and Southwest as the best airline in the business. “I’ve made many lifelong friendships with Ohio State students over the years, and many of them are now working with me at Southwest,” he said.
For his outstanding contributions to students, he has earned the Alumni Association’s Josephine Sitterle Failer Award, the National Intercollegiate Flying Association Coach of the Year, and the Dean’s Meritorious Service to Students Award for helping those in the College of Engineering or Knowlton School of Architecture. Besides the Ohio State Flight Team, he supports the TBDBITL Scholarship Fund, WOSU, and the Athletic Scholarship Fund.
When greeting passengers who are boarding his flights, he often wears an Ohio State lanyard that attracts attention from fellow Buckeyes and those impressed that Ohio State offers an aviation program. “My goal is to provide a safe, comfortable flight for passengers and let them know it was a Buckeye who provided it,” van Ooyen said.
After all, it’s his experiences as a Buckeye that provided a solid foundation and discipline to handle a $42 million aircraft for Southwest. “With Ohio State’s program recognized internationally, I take great pride that I am a product of the program and this great university,” he said.