Aviation senior Torrington Ford sets sights on breaking barriers
Fisher Class of 2023 member hopes to expand opportunities for Black pilots
May 1-5 is In-Demand Jobs Week. In-Demand Jobs Week is an annual statewide celebration of the jobs, industries and skills that are in demand in Ohio. Ohio State News highlights students as they transition from graduation into the workforce.
When Torrington Ford, a fourth-year with a double major in air transportation and aviation management at The Ohio State University Max M. Fisher College of Business, graduates Sunday, he plans to take his career prospects to new heights.
Ford, 20, is one of the youngest graduates who will be awarded a bachelor’s degree during Ohio State’s spring commencement on May 7 in Ohio Stadium.
“Torrington’s story is inspiring in so many ways ̶ from his amazing journey to Ohio State as a young man, to his passion for aviation, to his hard work turning that passion into a career path,” said Anil K. Makhija, Fisher dean and John W. Berry, Sr. Chair in Business. “His is an example of tenacity, perseverance and dedication that are hallmarks of so many of our Business Buckeyes. I can’t wait to see where Torrington’s next step as a member of our Class of 2023 will take him!”
A Washington, D.C., native, Ford completed an average of two grades per school year while being homeschooled by his mother, Tarita. He earned an associate degree before enrolling at Ohio State at age 15.
Ford said he was motivated to start college as soon as possible and begin the formal study of his passion ̶ aviation.
“I’ve always wanted to fly. To be up in the air, flying a plane, is joyous, freedom,” he said. “Nothing can top it.”
Ford developed a love of flying as a small child, growing up near the U.S. Air Force’s Joint Base Andrews. The love of flying was passed down by extended family members who are Air Force veterans.
Ford, who is African American, said he also admired a friend of his grandfather who was one of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen. The Black Air Force pilots formed the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group in World War II, earning three Distinguished Unit Citations for their outstanding combat record.
Ford said he’s also inspired by the story of Jesse Brown, who attended Ohio State in the 1940s and was heralded by the Navy as the first Black Naval aviator. Brown went on to become a Korean War hero whose life was immortalized in the 2022 film “Devotion” starring Jonathan Majors.
Ford emphasizes the importance of role models, especially for African Americans in the aviation industry. Only 3.4% of the nation’s aircraft pilots and flight engineers are Black, according to 2020 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“In my 20 years, I’ve probably only seen two or three African American pilots for any airline,” he said. “My generation, specifically, we’re disconnected culturally from the aviation industry. We just haven’t seen anybody prominently make it a mainstream, notable enterprise to capitalize on.”
To make inroads in the industry, Ford said he has already begun to tap into Ohio State’s large alumni network.
“It’s given me connections I have in the aviation industry, both for pilots and corporate personnel,” he said. “I’m grateful to Ohio State for putting those people in my path.”
As he prepares for a future in aviation, Ford plans to expand the runway for others.
“In the long run, the ultimate goal is to, at some point, own an airline,” he said. “Whether it’s a scheduled service like Delta or American or to do a private charter (company), which would be like Jet Edge or NetJets.”
As graduation approaches and he evaluates opportunities, Ford says the sky is the limit.
“I have the option to go straight into grad school and do my master’s in business administration or I’ll take an employment opportunity, get some work experience under my belt and go back for my MBA,” he said. “An aviation management and flight transportation degree can take you anywhere.”