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Aeronautics grad becomes youngest captain for American Eagle

Liberty University alumnus Anthony “Tony” Beckles (’06) always had a passion for taking to the air.

“Growing up in the Bahamas, we lived not too far from an airport, so the fascination of airplanes, just the thought of being in the sky was fascinating to me,” said Beckles, who received his degree from Liberty when he was 20. He was a double major in finance and aeronautics, specializing in commercial and corporate aviation.

Beckles was named the School of Aeronautics’ Pilot of the Year for 2003-04. After graduation, he served as an instructor and university pilot at Liberty and was hired by American Eagle in October 2006.

In March of this year, Beckles was promoted to captain. At 26, he is currently the youngest captain for American Eagle.

The promotion was a large feat to accomplish in such a short period of time.

“The upgrade time from first officer to captain varies. I finished in four-and-a-half years, it can be as much as 10 years sometimes, it depends on the demand,” Beckles said.

Looking back on his time at Liberty, Beckles is fond of many relationships he built there, especially his relationship with retired U.S. Navy Capt. Ernie Rogers, now the associate dean for the School of Aeronautics.

“He had this drive to succeed,” Rogers said. “He was small in stature, but every time I turned around, he was standing right behind me wanting to fly. He finished the program faster than anybody’s done it, the flight side.”

Beckles called Rogers a “father figure.”

“Being a mentor to me, talking about future goals, seeing potential in me and giving me opportunities to pursue my passion, my fondest memories are all the times spent with Mr. Rogers and the amount of time he poured into me,” he said.

When news of Beckles’ promotion reached Dave Young, dean of the School of Aeronautics, he was not surprised.

“He was tremendously motivated, he was very passionate about aviation. He was very committed to being a pilot and being an excellent pilot,” Young said. “I was very pleased for Anthony, but also pleased for American Eagle Airlines, because I was convinced he would be a tremendous asset to them, he’d be a great representative of the airlines and that has proven to be true.”

Anthony said he started his aviation career at the right time.

“The aviation field right now is set to have its biggest boom in the next few years,” he said. “We have a lot of pilots scheduled to retire in the next few years, so the industry will be looking for a lot of pilots and the demand is going to be there. There are going to be a lot of opportunities, whether for pilots, or in engineering or any aspect of the field.”

Statistics bear out Beckles’ point. According to the Airline Transport Association (ATA) & Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), by 2021 there will be a need of 6,000 new pilots for the major airlines annually.

“This provides an opportunity for SOA grads like Beckles as the pool of pilots is diminished … it’s a great time to be in training,” Young said.

He added that the SOA has enjoyed success in the hiring of its grads.

“This year we have had seven flight instructors (all SOA grads) hired by the airlines and have several waiting for interviews. The job market is opening up and for the first time in the history of the SOA, the airlines are now approaching us … our reputation is growing stronger.”

The SOA also has a 100-percent hire rate in the two AMTS (aircraft mechanic) classes that have graduated.

Beckles is based out of LaGuardia Airport in New York City and hopes to continue to move up as opportunities arise in his career. He and his wife, Amber ’(04), are expecting their first child in September.

Beckles’ family has been a longtime part of the Liberty community. His father, Anthony Sr. (’83), was a track and field athlete and later served as Vice President of Finance. His mother, Bernette (’84), is an adjunct professor of math. His sister, Andrea Beckles Parker (’09), also ran track at Liberty. His brother, Andre, recently graduated from Liberty Christian Academy and plans to attend Liberty in the fall.

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