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Graduate spotlight: Blaine High School alum earns wings, soars skies as commercial pilot

Zach Crowe(05/23/2024) Zach Crowe’s (‘17) journey from Blaine High School (BHS) to the cockpit of a Delta Airlines jet was a meticulously charted course. 

After attending both Johnsville Elementary and Roosevelt Middle School in the district, Crowe enrolled in the Center for Engineering, Mathematics and Science (CEMS) program during his sophomore year at BHS, with the initial intent to pursue engineering. However, his experience in an Aerodynamics class initiated a change of direction. “The main thing [from that class] that stuck out to me was putting the science behind how airplanes are able to fly,” Crowe explained. “That’s really when I started to look into it and decided that was what I wanted to do.”

Crowe took an “Introduction to Aviation” class his senior year in high school offered to students through the Anoka-Hennepin Secondary Technical Education Program (STEP). Aviation courses allow students to explore potential careers with field trips, hands-on air traffic control simulators in the classroom, and exposure to relevant topics such as weather; flight training; and general, corporate and commercial operations. 

Spreading his wings
From there, Crowe’s preparation for this future career took off. He completed more aviation technology classes at STEP and earned his private pilot’s license in his senior year of high school at the Anoka County - Blaine Airport. “The STEP classes mirrored my freshman classes at college.” The credits he earned at STEP were transferable to Minnesota State University, Mankato, where he graduated in 2020.

Crowe was hired by Endeavor Airlines in 2021 where he spent two years as a first officer and captain. He flew a 76-seat regional jet before shifting gears, now serving as a first officer and co-pilot flying a Boeing 737 for Delta Airlines. 

Birds of a feather
Further fueling Crowe’s pursuit of an aviation career was a family legacy and tradition of flight. His great-grandfather was a World War II pilot instructor and opened the Grand Forks airport. 

Crowe’s father, Mike, has worked for Delta Airlines for the past 24 years and is now a captain. This year, Zach had the unique opportunity to serve as a first officer with him on four separate flights from Minneapolis St. Paul to Boston, El Paso, Jamaica and Puerto Vallarta. 

Looking to the horizon
Reflecting on his journey, Crowe keeps in touch with Mrs. Amenrud, his fourth- and fifth-grade teacher at Johnsville Elementary School. “She was influential in my development as a student early on. I remember she was such a respectful and supportive teacher - and I wanted to do well for her.”

“I was no model student by any means, but aviation was one thing I was passionate about that I was able to dump all my time and effort into,” Crowe explained. Peter Groebner, Crowe’s instructor at STEP and endorsing instructor while he worked toward his private pilot ground test, also played a key role in helping him navigate opportunities. 

“My experiences [at BHS and STEP] allowed me to graduate [college] a full year early,” Crowe said. “As an adult now, I realize the value of getting into your chosen career path as soon as you can. Never underestimate the value of starting early and doing things for your future, now.”