Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) at Lancaster’s aviation program welcomes distinguished pilot Karl Clemmensen to its faculty as an industry liaison and meteorology instructor. His 49 years of aviation experience are a boon to the program, as he’ll be able to counsel graduates as they prepare for the workforce and connect them to potential aviation employers.
Clemmensen’s arrival is particularly timely as EMU’s first aviation students are starting their senior year this fall – an inaugural cohort that’s been followed by larger and larger classes enrolling each year. Seven students formed the first cohort in 2018, followed by nine and 16 students joining each year after.
The combination of a bachelor’s degree in leadership and organization management and flight certifications allows expanded education funding options, mentorship and career guidance – and an expedited pathway to Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certification.
Clemmensen said teaching the next generation of aviators is a way to express gratitude for the opportunities he’s been given.
“I came from a modest background and was helped when I was young by a neighbor who owned a small airplane,” he said. “After several years of guiding and helping me as a teenager, one day after thanking him, he said ‘just pay it back some day to someone else.’ I’ve never forgotten that.”
He’s been a pilot with American Airlines since 1987, during which time he’s logged 28,000 hours flying planes. For 10 years, he also served the airline as a federal flight deck officer – a pilot who’s deputized as a federal law enforcement officer under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to respond to criminal activity in flight.
Clemmensen has taught others to fly since the mid 1980’s, when he owned and operated a flight school in Saint Augustine, Florida. That included aerobatics lessons – and Clemmensen was a performer himself.
The biplane he performed in was painted green and white.
“I performed as the ‘Green Baron’ and would dog fight a white biplane which went by ‘the White Knight,'” Clemmensen recalled. “Because I was the only one with a smoke system, I was the one that would be ‘shot down’ at the end. I also had a small Kermit the frog painted on the side with the caption, ‘it’s not easy being green.'”
Clemmensen is a flight instructor as well as an instrument and advanced ground instructor. He’s also worked as a designated pilot examiner for the Federal Aviation Administration, investigated accidents for multiple pilots associations, and was inducted as a fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society in 2019.
“Karl Clemmensen brings a lifetime of experience to the aviation program at EMU,” said John Sibole, director of aviation. “He also utilizes his deep aviation network in the newly created position of Aviation Industry Liaison. In this role he acts as a bridge between EMU and potential aviation employers and provides counseling to EMU students about methods and techniques of obtaining aviation employment.”