Marcellus Boykins’ dream of becoming a pilot became a reality last week.
A pair of hurricanes and the coronavirus pandemic didn’t stop the former Ceres High School standout athlete/current McNeese State University senior track and field member from obtaining his Federal Aviation Administration private pilot license for single-engine aircrafts.
“It was an experience,” said Boykins, who was forced to relocate to Texas for a combined two-and-a-half months due to dangerous weather before returning to school in Louisiana on Oct. 13.
Boykins, 21, successfully completed oral and practical flying tests on Oct. 21 at Lafayette Regional Airport.
“I haven’t been able to stop smiling,” Boykins said. “I’m just grateful for the opportunity. I’m still processing it. The fact I made it to this point, it’s a large stepping stone to the ultimate goal, which is to be an airline and Air Force Reserve pilot.”
The oral exam lasted 90 minutes.
“The oral portion consisted of scenario-based questions along with a detailed knowledge of air spaces and aircraft systems,” Boykins stated. “I knew all the information. I just had to communicate it effectively. The examiner said I passed it with flying colors. It felt more like a conversation than a test.”
The flight exam lasted 90 minutes.
“It’s hours and hours of preparation for one flight,” Boykins said. “I was extremely nervous. My stomach was turning. It felt like (track and field) meet day but on a bigger scale. This was the championship scenario.”
“The practice portion was a little tougher than the oral part,” he added. “We had strong crosswinds on most of my landings.”
Boykins has logged 42 hours of flight time in a Cessna 172 dating back to November of 2019.
He passed the private pilot written test in April.
“I can fly anywhere in the continental United States, along with Hawaii, Alaska and some islands, with passengers,” Boykins said. “It’s almost another world up there. I’m pretty confident in my abilities. But you have to be responsible and aware. Safety is the biggest thing for me. The biggest factor is weather. If I did not feel comfortable, I would not fly.”
Boykins became fascinated with the idea of flying planes after watching the movie, Top Gun, during his childhood.
He started taking flight lessons at the Lake Charles Regional Airport this past year in Southwest Louisiana.
Boykins has worked as a line service technician at the airport for six months.
“I got promoted to night supervisor two months ago,” he said. “I refuel and perform small preventative maintenance on certain aircrafts.”
Boykins is a member of the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals.
A natural sciences major minoring in mathematics and communications, Boykins will graduate from McNeese State University this spring.
He plans to work in the Air Force Reserve and commercial sector as a pilot in the future.
“Now is the perfect time to get into the aviation industry,” Boykins said. “They’re looking to hire minorities.”
Less than three percent of America’s commercial pilots are African American according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Aviation is a predominantly white industry,” Boykins said. “Very few women, Latinos and other minorities can call themselves a pilot. It’s truly humbling to be in great company. I consider myself a role model.”
Boykins was named the McNeese State University Athletic Department’s Community Impact Student Athlete of the Year in April.
A member of the college’s track and field team, Boykins helped organize a toy drive around Christmas time for underprivileged children in the Lake Charles area for the second year in a row through the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
He also founded a campus-wide recycling initiative at McNeese State last November.
Boykins graduated from Ceres High School in 2017.
Seeded 15th, Boykins soared a personal-best 44 feet, 3 inches en route to an eighth-place finish in the triple jump at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Meet during his senior year.
He took third at the Division-IV-V finals and second at the WAC championships.
A three-year starter at receiver in football, Boykins caught 151 passes for 2,144 yards and 13 touchdowns.
He ranked fifth in the Sac-Joaquin Section in receptions (78), ninth in yards (1,145) and 10th in touchdowns (9) as the 2016 Bulldogs posted a 4-6 overall record and placed fourth in the Western Athletic Conference standings (2-3).
Boykins earned first-team, all-WAC honors as a senior and sophomore.
He played in the Central California Lions and North-South Rotary all-star games.
“I didn’t have it (my life) mapped out when I was in high school,” Boykins said. “Things started to come to fruition in college. In my eyes, the job isn’t done. It’s a marathon and not a sprint. I acknowledge the milestones I hit. You can never be complacent. You have to evolve. There is always something for you to learn and get better at.”