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Golf, piloting and helping others are Brody Burnell’s passions

Brody Burnell (Courtesy Brody Burnell)

Brody Burnell (Courtesy Brody Burnell)

Talk about having a plan.

Pinnacle High School senior Brody Burnell knows he wants to become a pilot for Southwest Airlines. More accurately, he’s known it since he was 6 years old.

The son of a long-time Southwest flight attendant, Burnell remembers as a 6-year-old sitting next to Louis Freeman, the first black chief pilot in the United States, on one flight.

His mother, who was on that flight, told her son not to bother the famous pilot but to talk planes instead.

A dozen years later, Burnell is set to give a speech at Freeman’s retirement.

It’s just one thing on the calender for the high school senior, who is also a co-captain on the golf team and vice president of Unify, a group at his school that helps special needs children.

Burnell has long been one to give to others.

“It started my freshman year, I walked past the lunch room and I saw all the kids with special needs sitting at a table by themselves,” he said. “I wanted to come help them out, and I’m like, ‘What can I do to help?’ I got other students to join me with kids with special needs and we’d have lunch, every other Friday.”

He joined Best Buddies and became the vice president and then the treasurer.

“Now we’re Club Unify so I’m vice president again,” he said.

Burnell also played in the youth band at his church and works as a writer and PR editor for his high school’s magazine, but he’s also busy tutoring students in the National Honors Society and volunteering with his church.

Out of school, Burnell is heavily invested in helping his family-run golf tournament. The Burndog Invitational, which in 2016 is scheduled for Nov. 20, is in its 27th year of raising money for Christian Family Care.

Burnell’s father has told Brody that he wants to turn the event over to the soon-to-be high school grad.

That might be a little down the road, but for Burnell’s post-graduation plans, he is focused on attending school to earn a bachelor’s in aeronautical science. The young pilot also has a blueprint to become a Southwest commercial pilot by the age of 23. He was all set to earn his private flying license in September — but the plane broke.

Once Burnell does that, he hopes to get a commercial license in May or June, then start out flying turbo-props in the state. After that, he’d like to become a captain, work at Compass, a charter airline, and finally get his Airline Transport Pilot license within five years in order to join Southwest.

“I really want to get involved with taking kids up — it’s called the Young Eagles — taking kids up when they don’t really have the opportunity to fly,” Burnell said.

That may be a few years off. But having a plan to get there isn’t a bad start.

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