Taking life one flight at a time: Samford student doubles as a pilot

Maryellen Newton, Staff Writer

Some Samford students’ weekend activities include Atlanta Braves games, concerts or even hometown visits. Freshman Davis Ebbert does something different: He flies planes.

When Ebbert was 6 years old, his grandfather, a former pilot, set Ebbert up in a flight simulator. He hasn’t looked back. Through the years, the simulators became more advanced, so he kept progressing. He even built his own cockpit on the simulator.

“All of a sudden, this thing that got started as a fun little hobby has spawned into something bigger,” Ebbert said.

He’s realized career potential with flying, and became involved in Microsoft Flight Simulator, a program the major airlines use. Through these, the pilot can simulate failures, change the weather or even use current weather. It’s a training tool Ebbert still uses.

Now, he’s working on becoming a certified flight instructor, and he has a commercial pilot’s license that he received in 2013. He can fly anyone’s airplane. Ebbert is applying for a job in which he would be able to do just that. It would be a full-time summer job and then part-time in the fall semester.

Over Easter break, he flew someone to Rhode Island, stopping after that to surprise his girlfriend in New Jersey. There, Ebbert described the landing as the most critical he’s ever had. There were strong winds, and it was raining.

Ebbert was flying one night at 11:30 when he was hit by a laser on the left-hand side. He remains calm under stress and pressure.
“You can’t afford not to be, it’s as simple as that,” he said.

He’s encountered issues such as gauge malfunctions, oil and fuel leaks, animals on the runway, near collisions and, once, he was hit with a laser.

“These are meant to distract,” Ebbert said, “and are labeled as terrorist acts. It locked on to the plane. We went for about 30 seconds where we couldn’t see anything. A bug on the windshield kept me up straight. I looked at it, and I kept it on the horizon. It looked like we were being abducted by aliens. It was kinda cool,” Ebbert said. “I got to call the supervisor for the air traffic controller that night.”

They opened an FBI investigation, and he talked to those agents as well. The man was arrested the next week.
“Every flight is different,” Ebbert said. “Every flight has its own challenge.” This is what he loves most about flying. Sometimes there’s bad weather, sometimes the flight controller loses the flight plans or sometimes it’s smooth sailing, but whatever happens excites him.

He said that pilots can’t train for most things, so they don’t have a choice but to remain calm, no matter the situation.
“If you resort to your training, good. If you don’t let yourself freak out, great,” Ebbert said. “If you don’t make a decision, you’re gone.”

Every decision a pilot makes is top priority.

“Whatever decision you make in your life, do it at 100 percent,” he said.

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