Kevin Spencer’s story speaks on the power of resilience and determination. As a young, precocious little boy growing up on the tiny, beautiful island of Saint Lucia, he had a dream of becoming a Pilot. At an early age, he found great interest in all things flying. Although the journey was an arduous one, he turned every obstacle into an opportunity and did not allow it to deter him. It’s an honor to share his journey and success story with you all. I hope his story inspires you in some way to believe in the power of the dream.

Kevin Spencer

Lovee: Hi Spencer, thank you for agreeing to share a little bit of your story with my readers. I always smile when I see you, because it takes me back to our childhood days in our homeland Saint-Lucia. I can still envision you with this big grin on your face as I approached my Mom’s Pre-school after school. You were always curious and a tad bit mischievous. I never knew what you would say or do next. (laughing out loud) It looks like it ultimately served you well…

Spencer: Yes, those were the good old days indeed. It was always a joy to see you, we shared some good laughs and had lots of fun. I’m very grateful for this opportunity to share my story-thank you for that.

Lovee: My pleasure, so you were born and raised in Saint Lucia. What were your childhood days like growing up in Saint-Lucia?

Spencer: My childhood days were a lot of fun. I grew up in a very loving and supportive household in La Clery, Saint-Lucia. My cousin Gerald and I were raised by my Grand-Parents, my Mom, Dad and Aunts. I really couldn’t have asked for a more loving and supportive family. My family always encouraged me to read often. My dad and I share a love and passion for music. We both play instruments. My mother was practically a magician and the driving force throughout my life. By trade, she was a Master Cake Decorator and Culinary artist/chef. However, when it came to financial management, she was and still is a boss! She always told me never to settle for less, even when I made 98% on my exams, after praising me, she would ask, “why didn’t you get 100%?” She taught me how to handle disappointments, regroup, and rebuild. My mom has never given up on anything, and I continue to try my best to do just that.

Kevin Spencer and his mother

Lovee:  This is exactly how I remember your mom. It’s great to hear you speak so fondly of her and your family. Did you always know that you wanted to become a Pilot?

Spencer: Yes, I did. As a boy, I loved science. I think my surroundings played a huge part in my influence in aviation. Growing up in La Clery, which is in Castries Saint Lucia, I lived close to Vigie Airport and had a clear view from my balcony of aircraft’s arriving and departing. Naturally, my first love became aircrafts. I was the type of kid who was never idle.
I found interest in taking things apart in my household and of course getting in trouble in the process. My favorite tool was a screw driver and I just loved getting into radios, televisions and anything mechanical or electric. I enjoyed watching shows on the discovery channel about the earth, space and science.
I never had an interest in video games or cartoons. One of my favorite shows was called “Beyond 2000” which featured inventions; example cars, aircraft and machines which were in the process of being available to the public beyond the year 2000.


Lovee: Did your family encourage you in pursuing your dream?

Spencer: Yes…my Uncle, Chris Spencer is also a Pilot. He left Saint-Lucia long before I was born, and left many books about aircrafts in the study room at our family home in La Clery, Saint Lucia. While most kids enjoyed reading story books and fables, I enjoyed reading about theories of flight and aircraft. It wasn’t until my Secondary school(High School) years that I was able to network with some friends who shared the same interest in aviation. We often went behind the old forts in Saint Lucia called Vigie after school where we sat for hours watching aircrafts land.
It was the year 1994 when Microsoft came out with a computer game called “Microsoft flight simulator”. This was the tool which enabled me to really learn the theories and science of flight. This computer program is still used today and has trained millions of Pilots like myself.

Lovee: The power of books and reading. Had your uncle not left those books behind, who knows how this could’ve changed the trajectory of your life. Once you came to the realization that you wanted to become a Pilot, what steps did you take to achieve your dream?

Spencer: After Secondary school, (High School) I still wasn’t sure how I would go about attaining my education and acquiring funding. I decided to enroll at the local Technical College where I pursed an Associate’s Degree in Automotive Technology while I researched flying schools in the USA. It was during the end of my first year at school when I got a call from my uncle. He informed me of a college in Atlanta, Georgia called Atlanta Technical College which offered technical courses in aviation. I began the necessary preparations and sort out to seek finances to obtain a loan. I was denied twice. I got approved upon my third attempt.

Lovee: There’s definitely a lesson here, the simple old adage, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again.” What were some of the challenges/obstacles you faced on your journey?

Spencer: Oh my, too numerous to mention. (laughing out loud) Where do I start? I left Saint Lucia on December 5th 2000 for Atlanta. Adjusting to the new weather and culture was a challenge. I did not have a vehicle and very little money. As a matter of fact, I was only able to obtain half of my school tuition.
My mother and uncle suggested that I enroll in the Aviation maintenance program before I learned how to fly. It was a two year program. My mom and I argued quite a bit about this. This was not the plan I had in mind. However, she insisted and my uncle enforced it. (It later turned out to be the best decision for my career to start with Aviation maintenance.) I only had two weeks to prepare myself for school. The objective was to obtain a driver’s license and a small vehicle for school. Due to the fact that I was staying with my uncle, his wife and two kids, the vehicle which I purchased needed to fit four. This was one of the terms of me living with them.
My duties involved dropping the kids to school and also picking them up 3:30 pm on afternoons on my way home from school, and making sure that they were fed and homework was completed. I had a few concerns while in Atlanta. Mainly, I was concerned about how I would obtain the other half of my tuition.
The plan which was discussed before I came up to Atlanta was to obtain a small part time job with my uncle’s wife brother who owned an automotive repair shop while I was at school, so that when the time came for needing funds, it would be available. That deal went sour.
It was November 2001. I had a friend in Houston, Texas who suggested that I transfer my credits to West Wood College of Aviation. He suggested a few possible job opportunities. The deal sounded too good to be true so I booked a flight during my school break and left for Houston. When I got there, I scoped the area, and visited the school to see if everything would workout with the transferring of my credits, and to my surprise, the student visa which I was on was not supported by the school. I had to come up with another plan.
However, Houston felt perfect for me. I loved everything about the city. I had to make this happen, but I didn’t know how. The solution turned out to be expensive. When I returned to Atlanta, I informed my family of my plans, but they were not supportive of it. It created a lot of tension, because that was not part of our original agreement. They thought I was being ungrateful for making such an impulsive decision, but no one understood how I felt. I had to take my own risks and follow my own compass. This decision would change my entire life.

Lovee: You were not kidding when you said, “where do I start?” (laughing out loud) What happened next?

Spencer: Well, I packed my bags and drove to Houston in my 1989 Acura Integra, what a sweet ride it was. I arrived back in Houston, and my priority was to obtain a new student visa. More depressing news came about when I learned that I would have to leave the country to obtain a new student visa. This involved me applying for an appointment at the American Embassy in Barbados yet again. Nothing short of a miracle, I was able to get one within days of applying. I had no choice but to sell my car to purchase those airline tickets. I was able to obtain a loan for my schooling thanks to the help of my aunt and grandfather co-signing on a student loan. I was also able to obtain a new student visa.
Wasting no time at all, I hurried back to Houston eager to start school. I purchased another vehicle and began the enrollment process at the college. The objective was to find a way to get some sort of income while I was at school. School was going great until the time came to pay the third tuition installment which was about $1700US. By then, I was in school for a year and I was dodging all members of admin by switching between night classes and day classes. I was finally asked to leave the school by one of the admin directors on the evening shift. I was told not to return until I had the funds for the following semester. I felt defeated.

Lovee: I love the storytelling; you’re answering all of my questions before I even ask! (laughing out loud) You have me hooked. How did you overcome those challenges/obstacles?

Spencer: It was towards the beginning of 2003, which was in many ways the worse experience in the United States for me. My living situation took a turn for the worse. The friend and his girlfriend whom I stayed with was going through a horrible break up and decided to break up and gave up their two bedroom apartment.
I also fell out with my friend after this situation because I couldn’t afford to help out financially. I was forced to live out of my vehicle for the next few months. I slept in my car at various parking lots mostly at Walmart and Target. Since it was winter, there were many nights when I slept with my car engine running so I could stay warm. I survived on the dollar menu at McDonalds, and took showers at a local college in Baytown called Lee College.
It was apparent that my situation was not getting any better, so I decided that I should drive towards the city of Houston to find some sort of work. This was quite a challenge as well, because my car registration and insurance had lapsed, and I was fearful of being pulled over.
I had to take a risk to find some sort of work. Thoughts of me going home a failure plagued my mind. I kept thinking of my family back home telling me that I should have never left Atlanta.
One day, I ventured across town only to get lost. As I continued to drive towards the city, I accidentally took a wrong turn towards HWY290. Turns out this would be the best mistake of my life.


Lovee: Now I’m at the edge of my seat! Please, tell me more…(laughing out loud)

Spencer: As I drove down this long stretch of highway for miles anticipating an exit, none came for at least another half hour. Suddenly, I noticed a low flying aircraft crossing directly in front my vehicle’s path, and then it disappeared into the bushes. Turns out there was a small private airfield called Weiser Air Park, home to two flight schools and a few small businesses. I quickly exited the freeway and made a U-turn seeking the entrance of this small airport.
I finally arrived, parked my vehicle and began looking around. I was very excited to see so many small aircrafts. Naturally, I went into the flight school and asked to speak to the owner. The school was owned by a very nice couple. The lady was from Holland and the gentleman was an American. I asked for some info on flight training and debated whether I should ask the lady about some sort of employment. I spent the night at the airport and I woke up to someone tapping on the window of my car. It was the same lady asking me why I was there so early. I informed her that I never left and further explained my situation to her over the next hour.
I asked her if there was anything that she needed done, whether it was cutting the grass or keeping the flight school clean. She said that she already had someone employed specifically for that. I then asked her if I could wash the aircraft when they were not flying and her response made my day. She told me that she would pay me $40 per aircraft and asked me when I could start.
I started the same day, drove to Walmart to purchase a bucket, soap and a long scrubbing brush. I managed to wash six aircrafts that day and got paid later on that afternoon. I was so grateful for the opportunity. I was able to get food for the week and more supplies. As the days went by, people at that airport noticed me cleaning the aircrafts and would ask for my business cards.
I invested in a mobile phone the next day. The following weekend, I was able to make some flyers on one of the computers in the flight school, and then I began getting phone calls regularly for jobs. I ultimately built a clientele, worked on other aircrafts and earned some extra money.
Months went by, and I was able to afford car insurance and registration. By the years end, I secured a small apartment in my name. I was very good at saving my money.
Between the years 2003 to 2004, I raised $15,000 to finish up aircraft maintenance school and also built a little flying time with a few of the instructors who rotated aircrafts back and forth. By 2005, I obtained a solo endorsement, which enabled me to fly solo to different airports where I would also wash aircrafts. I began renting an aircraft a couple days a week to go clean my clients’ aircraft all over Houston. In 2006, I finally got my work permit form the State and obtained a part time job with Lowes and a full-time job with Colgan Air, a subsidiary of United Airlines.

Lovee: Wow! There are so many dimensions to your story and so many great lessons to learn from it. Mainly, that even when we make mistakes or bad choices, it doesn’t mean that we become a victim or throw in the towel. I believe it’s only a mistake if we don’t learn the lesson. I like how you learned from your choices, took responsibility for your actions and life, and continued to press on. Well done! Where did the road lead from there?

Spencer: I worked with Colgan Air for six years and in 2012 Colgan Air filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. I was forced to look for work elsewhere. My mom now lived in Tampa. On one visit, she jokingly said that maybe I should apply for a job in Tampa. Curiously, I filled out an application with Silver Airways and was called in the following day for an interview. I was offered the position of an Aircraft Technician. For the next two years, I worked as a mechanic, but never lost sight of my ultimate goal of being a Pilot. In 2014, my spouse and I was able to secure a loan, and along with the rest of the money I saved up over the years, I was able to enroll full-time in a flight school while still working forty hours. I’m extremely grateful to her for this.
I literally had no days off for nine months. I was determined to get all my licenses and build enough flight time to secure my first Pilot job flying people between New-York and New Jersey, mainly casino trips with a company called ‘Ameriflight.’ After one year, I secured another position flying Cargo all over the United States, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. My goal was to obtain the minimum amount of flight time to be eligible for employment with a regional airline.

Lovee: I am even more inspired as I learn more. I like how you never gave up and did whatever you had to do to achieve your dreams, and in the process even gained those much needed skills which was/is useful to your career. You once told me that your ultimate goal is to become an Airline Pilot for United Airlines. I know that you’ve been on training with them to become a Commercial Pilot for a few months now. Did you achieve that goal/dream?

Spencer: Yes! I have indeed made great progress. I now work as a First Officer for Mesa airlines, which operates as United Express. I really enjoy working there.


Lovee: Congratulations! Who were your mentors throughout your journey, and who do you get your inspiration/motivation?

Spencer: I’ve had great mentors throughout my journey, mainly my Uncle, Chris Spencer and all the Pilots I’ve met along the way, especially Captain Marco Rincon and Captain Dru Fisher. My inspiration is my family. My spouse is a great support, and my success would not be possible without her. My son and daughter also share a similar interest in aviation. My son loves planes and my daughter loves meteorology. I hope to be a role model to both of them.


Lovee: There is no need to hope-you are! What advice would you give to any young person with dreams of becoming a Pilot?

Spencer: I would tell them to surround themselves with people with the same interest. Try going to small airports to network with others who share their passion. There are various tools on you-tube which are now available. There are also aviation programs now in place in most high schools such as the Ace program and many others. The opportunities are endless, but they must want it bad enough. Most importantly, to never give up.

Lovee: Great advice! I tell you all the time how proud I am of you, and how inspired I am by your story. You are a great ambassador for our country and a wonderful role model for the youth. As a fellow Saint Lucian, I share your story with pride.
Continue to soar, literally! Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and for sharing your story so candidly. You inspire!

Spencer: The pleasure is mine. Thank you, Lovee!