Graduate Says Engineering Background
Helped Him Earn 'Top Gun' as Navy Aviator
When Patrick Kennedy graduated in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, he had cars on his mind. Now all he thinks about are planes.
In August, he was designated a United States naval aviator. He completed advanced jet flight training with Training Squadron Nine at the Naval Air Station (NAS) in Meridian, Miss. His training included flying the T-45C Goshawk through several stages of flight, including instruments, and two- and four-plane formations, weapons, low-level navigation, and air combat maneuvering.
Kennedy earned the “Top Gun” award for attaining the highest air combat maneuvering grades in his graduating class.
None of this was part of his plan as an aspiring engineer. “I wanted to work in the car industry. I pictured myself designing cars at GM.” His timing couldn’t have been worse.
“Just as I was graduating, the American car industry was going under. So I took a job in D.C. just to have a job. I quickly realized I didn’t like sitting at a desk. I wanted to be outside, moving.”
During that time Kennedy attended an air show, and saw the Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron. Soon after, he called a recruiter. He says his brother, a Navy lieutenant, also helped guide him in the right direction. By 2008, he was enrolled in Officers’ Candidate School in Newport, R.I.
“It’s surreal. Never in my wildest dreams did I think this is where I would be five years out of college,” says Kennedy.
His engineering background gave him a leg up on his training. “I understood the aerodynamics of a plane. I definitely started my training with an advantage.”
Jet training wasn’t easy. “We would consistently fly two flights per day and we would go on weeklong detachments several times throughout the year. Survival training was six days of hell. But by far, the hardest part was landing a plane on an aircraft carrier for the first time. It was the scariest and most fun thing I ever did. I’ll never forget it.”
Kennedy became “carrier qualified” aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower last July. It’s been a summer of milestones for the junior lieutenant. On May 28, he married his college sweetheart, Meghan (McMahon), who graduated from CUA in 2006 with a nursing degree.
He says that the only moment that might top his first carrier landing is “seeing Meg for the first time in her wedding dress at the back of the church.”
Hometown: Sugarloaf, Pa.
Favorite activity at CUA: “I played on CUA’s rugby team. They were good guys. We’re still friends. Some were groomsmen in my wedding.”
Most memorable time of year at CUA: “Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with the rugby team — always a good party.”
Favorite class at CUA: Dynamics lab taught by Sen Nieh, professor and chairman of mechanical engineering.
Most visited attraction while at CUA: The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
Best advice to students and new graduates: “Choose a career that makes you happy. I would gladly work 80 hours a week at this job for no pay. I love what I do.”
Up next for Kennedy: He is in the fleet replacement squadron in Virginia Beach, Va., flying the F/A-18C. This is his last training before he deploys. “I’m ready to go wherever the Navy sends me.” And long term, Kennedy says, “I hope to stay in flying status for the next 15 to 20 years.”