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Brenner Furlong takes off on aviation career

May 18, 2022

Brenner Furlong
Brenner Furlong, '21

Brenner Furlong’s dreams have taken flight, quite literally.

Days after graduating from Dakota State with a General Studies degree, he started work as a pilot with Cook Aviation out of Fargo, N.D.

“I just love flying,” he said. “It’s something that allows you to decompress.” He became interested in aviation through his father and grandfather, both pilots in his home in Soldotna, Alaska.

“When your drive down the highways there’s roads and speed limits. With aviation, there is more freedom to do what you like,” he said.

Flying was not his initial dream when he decided to attend Dakota State. During a campus visit, he found that “I just fit in, I connected,” so he came for his college degree, and to take part in football and track. 

“Being a student-athlete helped me learn that I needed to have dedication and hard work to get through it all, and balance priorities and use time wisely.” After all, he said, “you’ve only got 24 hours in a day.” 

While he worked his way through classes, practices, games and meets, he found hours in his day to work in his love of aviation at the local business, Riggin Flight Service.

Furlong started going out to Riggins, located at the Madison Municipal Airport, to learn more about planes. Then he spoke with owner Morris Riggin about getting his private pilot’s license. “That’s all I want,” Furlong promised. When he earned his private pilot’s license in 2019 he told Riggin he was done.

“Morris said, ‘I think we’ll see otherwise,’” Furlong said, and Riggin was right, because Furlong had grown more passionate about flying. “It was a turning point,” he said. “It got me to thinking I might want to make this into a career.”

Furlong has a saying in his life, “You want to get valuable before you get expensive,” so he decided to learn and grasp as much knowledge as he could while he was young. He took advantage of the nine classes offered at Riggins, He got his sea plane certification, to land planes on water, IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) training in 2021, and his commercial license in 2022, followed by multi-engine IFR training, all while being a full-time student and a two-sport athlete.

This flight training is not part of the on-campus experience, but the local business gave Furlong the opportunity to receive the same training as a university aviation program, but with flexibility.

Now that he’s graduated, he will be doing aerial surveying for Cook Aviation.

“I’ll be flying from North Dakota to Oklahoma and Tennessee, flying and taking pictures,” he said. He will only control the plane, however, as someone in California will control the wing-mounted cameras, he explained.  

This is an example of more modern flying, a technology use that his Dakota State education helped with.

“When I was in high school, we did not have a one-on-one ratio with in-school computers, so I was a little behind with technology when I came to DSU,” he stated. “But with the small classroom sizes, the help of the professors, and the Tutoring Center, I was able to better understand my classwork, and excel and flourish with technology.”

These skills will help with future goals, the first is to fly for regional airlines after he receives his ATP degree (Airline Transport Personnel. If he chooses to fly larger airplanes, which use more computers with programming and monitoring systems, his DSU degree will have helped with that as well.

“Dakota State helped me with the technology used in airplanes, and to transition into life.”

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