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Student sets sights on Air Force career page 2
Stafford student is so focused on his future he earned his pilot's license at age 17 so he'd have a better shot at flying fighter jets for the Air Force

 Mac Barnes, 18, goes through a preflight check on a Cessna 172 before taking off from Shannon Airport recently. Barnes, a senior at Colonial Forge High School, is working toward his goal of attending the Air Force Academy.
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Date published: 10/15/2012


His parents, Brent and Kristen Barnes of North Stafford, said he can get as silly as any 18-year-old when he's hanging out with his friends.

And mature and focused as he is, he still needs to be reminded to do his chores.


The young flyer has Marines on both sides of his family tree. His maternal grandfather, Bill Paulson, flew jets and choppers in Vietnam, and his father, Brent, wanted to do the same during his eight years of service, but didn't pass the vision test.

Their love of flying was passed along to MacLean Barnes.

"Ever since he was old enough to hold a toy airplane, that was it," his mother said, remembering his fondness for anything with Blue Angels on it. "It's just the cut of his jib."

But Barnes didn't inherit his military style from his family. Even in jeans, he carries himself like someone in uniform--in posture, demeanor and the way he answers every question with "yes, ma'am" or "no, ma'am."

He looks like someone off the set of "Top Gun," a movie about a school for advanced fighter pilots.

His parents said they were never that focused.

"Honestly, I have no idea where it came from," his mother said. "Martial arts must have pounded it into him."

Barnes earned his black belt in tae kwon do and also studied jiujitsu for two years. Practicing martial arts helped cement his plans for a career in the military.

"I like discipline and the whole military type of environment," Barnes said. "I feel very comfortable with that."


Barnes and his family are working on college applications. He'll need a nomination from their senator to get into a military academy.

Barnes' first choice is the Air Force Academy, followed by the Naval Academy. If neither pans out, he'd like to attend James Madison University or Virginia Military Institute, hopefully on a ROTC scholarship.

His goal is to get a commission as a second lieutenant in the Air Force after graduation, fly fighter jets, then climb the ranks to general.

If he can't stay in the military as long as planned, he's already checked the forecast for commercial pilots. He says there'll be a shortage, as current pilots retire and Asian markets continue to grow.

Jim Stover, who runs JLS Aviation at Shannon Airport, said Barnes was one of the better younger pilots at his school. Unlike other people, especially teenage boys who tend to get sidetracked by girls and cars, Barnes never lost his focus.

He mastered the different phases of flying, equipment checks and weather readings in 50 hours. The national average is 70 hours, Stover said.

If Barnes can apply the same dedication to his career, people will be saluting him one day.

"There's no reason why he can't meet all those goals," Stover said.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425
Email: cdyson@freelancestar.com

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