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Pilot of the Year award comes with unique gift

May 19, 2010 : Marcelo Quarantotto

LU alumnus Tom Coble, left, with LU graduate John Iazzi

John Iazzi of Powhatan, Va., got a view of campus like no other graduate on Commencement day — in an L-39 jet.

Iazzi was given the opportunity as Liberty University’s School of Aeronautics Pilot of the Year.

“The award, and the chance to fly the L-39 jet, came to me as a complete surprise,” he said.

The award was announced at the departmental All Aviator’s Meeting on May 4. It is given annually to a School of Aeronautics senior in honor of professionalism, academic achievement and aviation accomplishments.

The jet belongs to Liberty alumnus Tom Coble (’76), who is currently a member of Liberty’s Board of Trustees and a former pilot for LU’s founder, the late Dr. Jerry Falwell.

Iazzi’s flight began a few hours after Commencement on May 15. They took off from Lynchburg Regional Airport and landed in Burlington, N.C. Coble was the primary pilot, but he allowed Iazzi to have the controls for several maneuvers.

“Everything happens much faster in a jet, with top speeds in excess of 500 mph,” Iazzi said. “After taking off and quickly reaching 10,500 feet, we spent 30 minutes flying aerobatic maneuvers … Pulling 5 to 6 [gravitational forces] is quite a strain on the body and takes some practice, but at least I never got sick.”

Iazzi’s parents and his brother were able to attend the main Commencement ceremony as well as the individual aviation diploma ceremony. He said his family was “impressed with the level of planning and effort that went into the graduation services, and appreciated the personalized feel of the School of Aeronautics.”