“My father is a pilot and so I’ve always been around him and from a very young age he started breaking me in [to aeronautics],” Tillman said. “I’ve been around it my whole life and I’ve always wanted to try it — I had watched people fly, I watched my dad fly, and so I wanted to do it.
“You have to be 16 to fly solo anyways, so when I turned 16 I told myself, ‘I’m going to fly solo and I’m going to get it done.’”
When learning how to fly, Tillman said, the instructor, in his case father Arnold Tillman along with a family friend, helps phase the student into the basics before taking flight. For example, the student does not deal with takeoff or landing, but learns the controls of the aircraft.
“You feel prepared when you get up there. You know what to do, you know when to make your turns and everything, but having said that, it was the scariest thing I have ever done,” Tillman said.
While he is still exploring his career options, Tillman said he wants to incorporate flying in his adult life.
“I’ll be a private pilot and I want to take it far enough to where I can do anything; however, I don’t think that I’ll take [aeronautics] as my career path,” he said. “It’s taught me patience — you have to be patient and work through things — and also that hard work will pay off.”
While he won’t be able to participate as a senior, Tillman was positive about the possibilities for future underclassmen who will participate in the Embry-Riddle Aeronautics University STEM Academy to launch in fall 2014 at Cartersville High School. Students will learn about different careers in aeronautics while gaining college credit.
“The [opportunities] are huge. Even if you don’t want to do [aeronautics] as a career when you’re older, it never hurts [to learn],” Tillman said. “The more you know about concepts, the better. I don’t know a lot about aerospace engineering concepts, I only know how to fly, but I know there are tons of careers out there in it.
“There’s always flight and space companies out there looking for the person with the next big idea ... and the military is always looking for people with new concepts for aircrafts and [for] pilots, so the possibilities are endless if you can really grasp the concepts.”
According to a press release, “[Tillman’s] great-grandfather flew an open-cockpit biplane in the 1920s, his grandfather was a military pilot in World War II and later flew for American Airlines, and his father has been flying since he too was a Junior at CHS. David’s great-grandfather, B.J. Bandy, owned the Braban Hotel on Public Square and Bartow Textiles on South Erwin Street beginning in the 1930s. His grandfather, Cartersville Mayor David Tillman, was a flight instructor and flew transport planes across the North Atlantic to Europe and Africa in World War II and subsequently flew a number of years with American Airlines prior to locating in Cartersville. David’s father, Dr. Arnold Tillman, learned to fly at the Cartersville airport. He went on to become a flight instructor and holds multiple jet type ratings.”