Pilot son surprises dad on flightSunday, June 13, 2021
BY ROMARDO LYONS
At just age two, Anselm Dewar was on his father's work computer flying digital planes and dreaming of actually becoming a pilot when he got older.
Thirty-two years later, Anselm, who was raised by adoptive Jamaican parents, surprised his father, Ashman Dewar, by piloting his flight from Miami to South Carolina and then back to Miami.
“That was one of the most important moments ever,” a joyous Anselm told the Jamaica Observer in an interview.
“I am adopted, but I don't remember that moment, so this is the most important memorable moment that I've ever gone through with my father. And the reason being is, it's a big thing. I think I went through a lot in my life and not knowing what I wanted to be/do in life, and I was kinda at a crossroads. To somehow become a pilot is an amazing thing, and showing my dad that I made something of myself got me emotional,” he said.
“And I know that's all my parents ever wanted. They've always said I have the ability and it's come full circle where they see me now as a black captain at that, and my father is a passenger on the plane.”
“We have a VIP on board. A little bit about the VIP… he hails from Kingston, Jamaica. The VIP I'm talking about is my father,” a teary-eyed Anselm announced mid-flight, as a grand surprise to his father who had no idea that his son was the captain.
But it was a turbulent journey to that moment for Anselm, who struggled most of his life to find his purpose. Up until 2009 he worked three jobs and had to be sleeping on a friend's couch at one point when life got hard.
Both his parents are Jamaicans who immigrated to Toronto, Canada in the late 1960s. They subsequently moved to the United States, where they adopted Anselm.
“My father is from Kingston, Jamaica. He is from Manning's Hill. My mother is from Kingston, Jamaica as well. The whole of my family is from Jamaica. They moved to New Jersey in the United States and then from New Jersey, they finally found their nice little resting place outside of Atlanta. That's the whole journey.
“I come from a typical Jamaican household… strict parents, very religious; we go to church every Sunday. I didn't have everything that I wanted but the things that I needed, I received them. I am very thankful for that,” he told the Sunday Observer.
His father, Ashman Dewar, who is a cartographer, set him on a course to becoming a pilot in the early 1990s. Without his father, Anselm said, his passion for flying would be inexistent.
“He does aerial surveying and that requires the use of computers. So, my father had computers that he would do his work on and he installed a game called Microsoft Flight Stimulator. I was about three… before I knew up from down. I used to play that game and I loved it because I got to fly a plane. It was good enough for me to experience flight,” he recalled, adding that as a child, he travelled back to Jamaica with his parents a lot, developing a predilection for airports and flying.
“I was always thrilled and excited to be at the airport and be in an airplane. And if it wasn't for my father and that simulator, I probably wouldn't have had the passion to do flying. I thank him and I love him for that,” he related.
The passion was always there, but Anselm couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. He didn't fly a plane until he was 22 years old, when a man he refers to as Mr McNeil, the silent owner of a restaurant where he had worked, offered to take him flying.
“Mr McNeil calls me up and said, 'I'm about to go flying…you want to come with?' I said 'I would love to but I am about to head home to change for work.' He said, 'Don't worry about work.' So, I called up my boss and he said, 'Anselm, go flying.' So, I didn't work that day. I went flying with Mr McNeil. This is the first time I was in somebody's personal airplane. Before flying, I was just in awe of this aircraft. We get in and then we take off,” said Anselm.
McNeil looked back at him and asked, “Are you nervous?”
“Me? Nervous? I was born to do this,” Anselm responded.
Shortly after, he was given control of the plane and had to fly it on his own.
“I'm just going left, going right, going up and down like I've done it a hundred times before. He asked if I ever did it before and I told him it's my first time.”
“You're doing a great job!” said McNeil.
“Thanks Mr McNeil!” an enthused Anselm responded.
A couple weeks later, McNeil phoned Anselm yet again, inviting him on another sky excursion. And yet again, his boss gave him the go-ahead.
“It's a bigger aircraft and I'm just amazed. I start flying the aircraft and he asked me again if I have ever flown before. He let me fly from New Jersey all the way down to Pennsylvania in a twin-engined plane. And to fly back up, I did it like it was nothing,” he recalled.
And on a life-changing day when Anselm went to pick up a pay cheque, he was approached by his boss. Quite nervous, he assumed the worst.
“He's like a father figure to me. He loves me. I'm like his son. I thought I was in trouble. I was wondering what was wrong. He told me to take a seat. Many things were going through my head. He had his hands on his hips and he said, 'We're sending you to flight school.' That was my blessing. I never knew I was going to become a pilot. I thought that was a pipe dream,” he said.
“I was working three jobs and there was a time in my life when I was sleeping on my buddy's couch. It has been a crazy journey.”
Anselm enrolled at Flight Safety Academy in Florida in August 2009 free of cost, and completed studies in August 2011.
“That's how my life changed. The opportunity of a lifetime just came falling on my lap. Two pretty much strangers decided to take me under their wings and said let's make something out of this guy. I got an opportunity to make something of myself.”
It was his hope to also surprise McNeil on the flight.
“The original plan was to have Mr McNeil on the flight too, but because of scheduling, it didn't happen as well.”
And ever since he posted the video on Instagram, he has caused a lot of chatter online, with international media and thousands of people reaching out to him.
“I never expected this to go viral. That's all cool and dandy but I am happy that it put me on a platform where I have hundreds and thousands of people messaging, saying they were inspired and motivated by my story.”
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