It was an experience in his last mission area which sparked the fire of Au’ahi Aiu’s ambition to become a fighter pilot. As he served in close proximity to Misawa Air Base, a joint U.S.-Japan airbase in Misawa, Japan, Aiu would see and hear fighter jets taking off and performing acrobatic aerial stunts.
He said this reminded him of the love of flight he had since he was a child. Now a returned missionary, Aiu, a freshman from Kahuku majoring in biochemistry, said he plans to pursue aviation, with hopes to be a fighter pilot.
Aiu remarked how flight still had a powerful effect on him, even after over a century of flight being a normal occurrence. “I see [flight] as breaking the chains that bind us to the Earth. It gives me a sense of freedom. A kind of freedom I feel you can’t get when you’re on the ground.
“That’s one of the main reasons I want to fly fighter planes. Those kinds of planes really give people the ability to harness the skies and to control the air, to allow them to protect people or perform amazing stunts to inspire others, and setting new precedents for aviation.
“I’m very grateful to have this time at college, post-mission, to decide what it is I want to do with my life.”
Prior to his mission, Aiu maintained his childhood passion for learning about aviation, but said he had to focus on it less to focus on his mission. While living in Misawa for his last few months as a missionary, he said, “Pretty much every day, we, the missionaries, would be walking and see fighter jets flying all the time [from the airbase]. We would see flight demonstrations by the demo team sometimes too.
“Our ward mission leader gave us the opportunity to see one up close and personal on the base, on the flight line. I got to go on the runway and watch. I told my dad about it and he told me to ‘think about who I wanted to be,’ and I didn’t know what that was supposed to be.”
For the rest of his mission, Aiu decided he wanted to be involved with aviation somehow, whether it was designing and building aircraft, or to fly and be in control of one. “Since the experience of watching the planes in Japan, I wanted to be a fighter pilot. I like the idea of being able to protect [others] just like I would protect my family and what I believe in.
“My thought process is, if I were to learn it as a career, then I could use what I learned to protect my future family. I could use what the government teaches me to both survive myself and to help others.”
A friend of Aiu, Harry Kim, a freshman biomedical science major from Korea, encouraged Aiu to pursue his dreams. According to Kim, “At first, I thought [aviation] was dangerous, because Au’ahi wanted to fly fighter planes, and not the passenger ones. Even though I was worried, he seemed pretty set on his dream. I can’t really convince him otherwise, so I will support him no matter what.”
Pros and Cons
While the potential to become a fighter pilot excited Aiu, he admitted there were both positive and negative things that could come from becoming a fighter pilot.
“There are many pros, including the government taking care of you as a combat pilot, and you get to operate some pretty advanced aircraft. The many sacrifices I thought would be really hard if I chose this career would be being away from my family. Yes, I’m working to protect them and others, and yes, it’s for a good cause. There is still a conflict between me wanting to be there for my future family and wanting to do something I enjoy.
“I’m still trying to see if I can give sacrifices in order to get the benefits. Coming back to Hawaii, the desire to fly still has not died. Many people have given me the advice of being open, and especially pray about how I should go about doing it. I also found research was important, and knowing what I need to do.”
Shortly after arriving on the BYU–Hawaii campus, Aiu took the MBTI test and the Strong inventory assessment, which he said gave him insight into his strengths and weaknesses, and what he really wanted to do. “All of the counseling and tests have really helped me with starting my path towards my eventual career,” Aiu said.
J Smith, a counselor at Career Services, worked with Aiu in helping him narrow down the classes he needed to take to get him on the right academic path.
Smith, a junior from Virginia double-majoring in peacebuilding and business management, said, “Because BYU–Hawaii doesn’t offer engineering we (Career Services) talked to him about some alternative ways for him to get there and a few things he could study.
“We went through the MBTI and Strong assessment to see what else he could potentially be good at and he would enjoy. We took some time talking about his plans and interests and made some recommendations to try some particular classes and look into different fields of study. He really liked what Career Services had to say and came back for some follow-up. We talked about some more career-design material and he started reading ‘Designing Your Life.’”
Smith added, “I think it’s awesome to have that kind of drive and passion. I remember when people tried to talk me out of what I dreamed of doing and I felt very strongly it’s what I wanted to do and it’s because of BYUH my dream has been realized. I’m excited to see what life has in store for Au`ahi and maybe BYUH has something else exciting to add to his plans of becoming a pilot.”
Aiu added how even if he did not become a pilot, he still wanted to be involved with aircraft somehow. He mentioned how his favorite airplane, the Mitsubishi Zero, was great because of its designer, not just because of its pilot. He recalled the Studio Ghibli movie “The Wind Rises,” which told the story of the Zero’s designer, Jiro Horokoshi.
“[Horokoshi] was once a kid and grew up with a dream, just like me. Even though he could not become one because he was nearsighted, he was still able to go into the aviation industry and become part of it. I definitely see a parallel between myself and Horokoshi, especially when he is trying to figure out how to build the plane and accomplish his dream. Here at school, I am trying to figure out my dreams as well.”