Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Front Royal, VA—While the rest of Virginia was focused on the incoming snowstorm that would eventually dump over a foot of snow on the Commonwealth, Randolph-Macon Academy (R-MA) senior Victor Marshall had his eyes set on something else entirely: completing his first solo flight. It was a dream he had given up on, but on February 11, 2014, he made it happen.
Marshall originally came to R-MA in sixth grade because of the Academy’s flight program, but he had to wait until he was 15 to fly. By the time he got to his sophomore year, his situation had changed and he left R-MA. A year later, he returned, still harboring aspirations of flying.
“I missed the teachers,” he said. “They care about you in a different way that you can’t find anywhere else. The college acceptances were important too.”
Marshall’s love for planes goes back to his early childhood—at age six he had his mother paint planes all over his bedroom—and by returning to R-MA, initially it seemed his dreams were back on track. But then he faced a setback shortly before his junior year when he learned that he is partially color-blind. His doctor informed him that he would never be cleared to be a pilot. Devastated by the news, he didn’t even bother enrolling in the flight program at Randolph-Macon Academy that year, although he still attended the Academy as a day student. Fortunately, R-MA flight instructors Laura Abraham and Ryan Koch got a hold of him halfway through the year.
“They said I still had a future in flight,” Marshall recalled. Although he cannot fly a commercial passenger aircraft, Marshall learned that he could be a flight instructor or have another job that would still allow him to be in the air, where he wanted to be.
Finally, Marshall began flying in the fall of his senior year, and he quickly advanced. On February 11th, he knew he was ready, and so did Koch.
“I was on my solo lesson, and we were just waiting for my landings to be good enough and the weather to be right,” said Marshall.
“Victor has a passion for aviation that goes well beyond most students at R-MA,” said Koch. “He is constantly researching airplanes and relating what we learn in ground school to his flying.”
“I’ve never learned so much about one thing and enjoyed it so much as flight this year,” Marshall commented.
His solo flight consisted of three successful take-offs and three landings alone in a Cessna 172 airplane at Front Royal-Warren County Airport in Front Royal, VA. It was made even more special by the fact that as he was in the air for the first time, Koch got onto the phone with the president of Randolph-Macon Academy, Maj Gen Maury Forsyth, USAF retired. By the time Marshall was on his second landing and third take-off, he knew Forsyth was there.
“That was pretty special,” Marshall said with a big grin.
Marshall doesn’t just fly; he played football this past fall and just finished with the wrestling season. He maintains a GPA over 3.3, placing him on the Dean’s List every quarter. He is also a member of the National Honor Society and Spanish National Honor Society. He has already been accepted to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida, his first-choice college, with a scholarship. He plans to continue flying, and hopes to earn his private pilot certification before heading off to college.
Marshall is a day student at R-MA, currently residing in Front Royal with his mother, who was on-hand to help present his solo wings for his Air Force JROTC uniform on February 17th. Victor is the son of Cheryl and Herbert Marshall.
Randolph-Macon Academy (R-MA), founded in 1892, is a college-preparatory, coeducational boarding school for students in grades 6 through 12. Students in grades 9-12 participate in R-MA’s 91st Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), and have the opportunity to fly in a unique flight program. R-MA is affiliated with the United Methodist Church and is located in Front Royal, Virginia.