By: Cathy Jilbert
Introducing the “Where Are They Now?” series back, we start off with a long-time alumnus, Angel Castellanos. Receiving the James C. Ray scholarship in 2011 during his sophomore year at Central Florida Aerospace Academy (CFAA), Castellanos was one of the first students to participate in the scholarship program. Castellanos mentions, “I had the pleasure to be one of the first in the program, and because of that, I was able to help the program find the best way to better serve students in the future.”
Castellanos first started off in aviation by attending a Light Sport Solo Camp that got students started in the cockpit. The students enjoyed it so much that Mr. Ray offered to provide the funding necessary for them to finish their training that fall. That next summer Angel and a few other classmates were invited by Chuck Ahern to attend a glider camp at Seminole Lake Gliderport. Angel says, “…to this day that was some of the most fun flying I have done.”
In the fall of 2012, he started his Single Engine Land add-on, and in December 2013, his Single Engine Sea rating was completed, one of his favorite ratings he completed. In 2015, Angel began his professional flight training and completed his Instrument rating, Commercial License, and became a Certified Flight Instructor all by the age of 19. To build time, he started working at a flight school located at Lakeland Linder International Airport named “Tailwheels.” Soon after, in 2016, the opportunity arose to progress his career by working for Via Airlines, where he was trained on the EMB-120, Citation Excel, and ERJ-145. This began his passenger-carrying career and allowed him to build hours for his ATP by the age of 23.
In 2018, Angel began working at Endeavor Air on the CRJ-900 and flew there until late 2022, where he started with United Airlines as a First Officer for the Boeing 737.
When asked about his short and long-term goals within aviation, Angel states his short-term goals in aviation would be getting back into General Aviation and volunteering more locally. Long-term, he plans on flying aerobatics competitively and flying warbirds around the country. Angel’s involvement within the aviation community includes volunteering with SUN ‘n FUN, EAA, AOPA, ALPA, and the Latino Pilots’ Association.
When asked how the scholarship has impacted him, Angel states, “The scholarship was crucial for giving me a jumpstart into making aviation my career. It is no surprise to anyone how expensive flight training is and without this opportunity I do not think me or my family could afford it. I also had the pleasure to meet so many people along the way that wanted to see me succeed and share their passion for flight with me. There were plenty of ups and downs along the way but I would not change anything about my path and I would absolutely not be where I am today without CFAA or the James C. Ray Scholarship.”
Angel’s advice to the current and future generation of scholarship students is, “My biggest piece of advice for those looking to make flying a career, or any career for that matter, would be to never forget what you are passionate about. It is very easy to get lost in the chase and forget what makes being a pilot special. Whether you love GA, turning wrenches, or socializing at the airport, make sure you do not lose sight of why you started this journey. Finding ways to give back, volunteering, and standing with your fellow pilots at work are just a few ways I’ve tried to share my experiences and if I can make a difference to just one person, it would all be worth it.”
Angel concludes with this statement, “A wise man once said the engine may be the heart of an airplane, but the pilot is the soul. No matter what path you are on, make the most of the opportunities that you find and use those experiences to grow and share with others. The James C. Ray Scholarship is one of those fantastic opportunities for young people to try something that has been traditionally out of reach for many. I have been fortunate to be able to explore many aspects of aviation from the airport management and academic side, to the technical application of the A&P program and of course from the cockpit. The path that lead me to the right seat of a jet for one of the largest airlines in the country started just a little over 10 years ago in a two-seat trainer thanks to the generosity of James Ray and that opportunity was life-changing.”
The mission of the Aerospace Center for Excellence (ACE) is to engage, educate, and accelerate the next generation of aerospace professionals. Angel has been an excellent role model for the future generations to come. We only wish the best for Angel in his accomplished career!