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No need to solo; local teen wins chance to fly with Harrison Ford

Jodie Gawthrop, 16, took a selfie with Harrison Ford before they took flight Thursday at the Oshkosh air show. | Photo courtesy of Jodie Gawthrop

When most people meet Harrison Ford, the subject inevitably turns toward “Indiana Jones” or “Star Wars.”

But when 16-year-old Jodie Gawthrop went up in a plane with the actor earlier this week, they talked about their shared interest in aviation.

“It’s a really great experience to see the air show from a bird’s eye perspective,” she said of her 20-minute flight with Ford.

The Westchester teen won the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles competition.

Jodie received a scholarship to continue her flight training — and that flight with Harrison Ford at the helm on Thursday, during the aircraft association’s air show in Oshkosh, Wisc.

She was told of the competition by a member of the aircraft association. The member wrote her a letter of recommendation for the competition, and Jodie answered several essay questions to win the scholarship and flight.

“Flying is about always pushing yourself to be better,” Jodie recalled writing for one essay. “When you’re flying, you’re responsible for your safety and the safety of your passengers. … It’s character building.”

Jodie discovered her love of aviation three and a half years ago after she read a magazine article about the Civil Air Patrol program.

Jodie Gawthrop, 16, won a flight training scholarship and a flight with Harrison Ford. | Maj. Robert Bowden/Civil Air Patrol
Jodie Gawthrop, 16, won a flight training scholarship and a flight with Harrison Ford. | Maj. Robert Bowden/Civil Air Patrol

The air patrol runs a cadet program for ages 12 to 18, said Major Robert Bowden, public affairs director for the Great Lakes region and Johnson Flight Academy Commander. It is, he said, a combination of ROTC, Boy Scouts, and Explorers — “on steroids.”

Only 4 percent of air patrol cadets earn the title of “Cadet Lieutenant Colonel” within the organization, Bowden said — and Jodie is one of them.

Jodie said her father, who used to fly recreationally years ago, began working on renewing his pilot’s license after she joined the Civil Air Patrol program.

“It’s something we’re able to talk about,” she said. “Maybe we’ll even fly together some day.”

She attends weekly meetings and leadership training. She credits home-schooling for “the opportunity to push through and succeed in areas I’d like to excel in.”

Jodie spent this past week at the National Blue Beret aviation camp on the grounds of the Oshkosh air show. There are around 150 other cadets between the ages of 16 and 20 living in the camp’s barracks.

The cadet intends to pursue a career as a pilot. “I’m currently hoping to do a military route,” Jodie said. And even if she’s not in the cockpit, she said she’d still love to be involved with the aircraft behind the scenes.

She’s happy to report that using the aircraft association’s scholarship, she will soon start taking formal flying lessons at a Chicago-based airport.

“Aviation is not so much a hobby as a life-style,” Jodie said. “My ultimate goal is to motivate others to be the best they can be.”