Hampton, VA – Only the finest officers can fly for the President of the United States and one of those pilots happens to be a Hampton University graduate, Maj. Justin Howe of the United States Marine Corp.
Maj. Howe has been flying for President Obama for the past few years.
As he reflected back to his first mission with Obama he said, “I had the opportunity to fly him from JFK to the wall street landing pad in New York City. He came to the cockpit and shook my hand. After a few missions he would tell me, “It’s good to see you,’” said Maj. Howe.
Maj. Howe graduated from HU in 2002 with his bachelor’s degree in Aviation and Airport Management.
He has been flying for the USMC for the past 15 years.
Prior to flying for VIP's, Maj. Howe flew the CH-53E, better known as the Super Stallion, the largest and heaviest helicopter in the United States military.
Maj. Howe later applied to the Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1), which is responsible for transporting the President of the United States, Vice President, Cabinet members and other VIP’s.
“The unique thing about the application process is the pilots in the squadron choose the pilots that get into the squadron. You have to have a good reputation and a minimum of 1500 flying hours,” said Maj. Howe.
After joining HMX-1, Maj. Howe became the lead planner for the Presidents missions overseas.
He worked directly with the United States Secret Service and other agencies to ensure the president’s safety.
“I would pick where we landed and orchestrate the movement to and from,” said Maj. Howe.
While Maj. Howe never thought he would one day fly for the President of the United States, he thought back to a time when he was a child sightseeing with his family in Washington D.C.
He remembered seeing former President Ronald Reagan landing in Marine One.
His family took a photo of him with Marine One in the background.
“I look at that photo, now, and think it’s pretty cool. I never knew that I would be flying that plane,” he said.
Maj. Howe hopes to someday become a squadron commander, a role that would leave him in charge of 16 aircrafts and 300 Marines.