High School Senior & Future Aeronautical Student on Clear Path Toward Aviation Career


Few people have reached the heights that Andrew Sandell, Erie International Airport’s newest intern, has — or at least not as quickly. Just in the past nine months, he reached two major milestones on his course to a career in aviation, and he just turned 18!

A senior at McDowell High School, located in Millcreek Township, PA, a suburb of Erie, Sandell  became a certified pilot last summer after completing an Air Force Academy Training/Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFJROTC) program at Bowling Green State University.  

More recently, he was granted a J-100 Character-in-Leadership Scholarship which includes a full college ride for four years and is awarded annually to only 100 AFJROTC cadets who demonstrate character and leadership over their high school careers.  

“We’re thrilled to have Andrew interning at the airport where we can get him acquainted with the operational side of aviation in a real-world environment,” said Derek Martin, Executive Director of the Erie Regional Airport Authority, the governing body of the Erie International Airport. “He’s an exceptional young man whose accomplishments at such a young age reflect his intense drive and passion for what we do. With more like Andrew entering the fold, the future of the industry looks bright.”

During his internship at the airport, Sandell will be working under different heads of operation, shadowing employees, and gaining invaluable experience in the industry, all of which will contribute to his ongoing aspirations to work in the aviation business.

“I’m expecting to learn everyday and will take this technical knowledge with me throughout my entire life of aviation-oriented work,” said Sandell. “As I progress through college, this internship will give me a small taste of what life in my career field will be like, from all angles. This is another one of those ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunities which often comes from seeking them out. If you work for it, you can attain anything your heart’s desires.”

Sandell is certified to fly small one-engine planes like Cessnas and Pipers, internationally with any flight plan that uses the outside as reference. He gives a great deal of credit to his instructors and the work and paperwork they did, stating that he would not have earned his wings without them. 

“He’s a hard worker, a very sincere cadet, a good kid to have all-around, and it absolutely comes as no surprise that he would achieve this accomplishment,” said John Nygaard, Maj, USAF (Ret.), Sandell’s AFJROTC instructor, upon his certification at only 17 years old.

Sandell has been accepted to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) in Florida where he will be studying Aeronautical Science and continuing his flight career with their flight program. ERAU is the largest accredited university specializing in aviation and aerospace programs. Founded in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1926, it enrolls over 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students with main campuses in Daytona Beach, Florida, and Prescott, Arizona as well as a variety of online programs and academic programs at satellite locations.

“My goal is to continue my pilot training extending to at least IFR and CFI,” said Sandell. “From there I will attempt to receive a pilot slot to Undergraduate Pilot Training with the United States Air Force. In the chance I receive [a slot], I will have been serving around six of my ten years in the USAF as a pilot. If I do not, I will be pursuing ATC in the Air Force as a commissioned officer while still flying on my own volition regularly.”

Besides flying, Sandell enjoys longboarding and volleyball. When attending Embry-Riddle, he plans on joining the Skydiving Club and Surfing Associations in Daytona Beach.