Anthony Reynolds wanted to fly since childhood.
At 6 years old, he told his aunt he aspired to become a pilot.
At 17, he flew his first plane.
But at 19, he decided to stay grounded. He married, had four children, and was “doing what I had to do to provide for my family,” he explained.
This is a reality for many. But for Reynolds, it was simply a detour to a rewarding career in aviation.
At 44, Reynolds will receive his Bachelor of Science in Aerospace with a concentration in Aerospace Administration on Thursday with Polk State College’s 121st graduating class and he has already landed his “dream job” as manager of flight training devices for FlightSafety Textron Aviation Training.
“I get to do every day what I dreamed of as a kid. It may have taken a while to get here, but it’s never too late to get your education and to accomplish your goals.”
“I get to do every day what I dreamed of as a kid,” he said. “It may have taken a while to get here, but it’s never too late to get your education and to accomplish your goals.”
The Lakeland native excelled over the years as an operations manager for different businesses, with gigs with discount auto parts and chemical companies, as well as the U.S. Department of Defense, where he served as a contractor with the Marine Corps.
Little did he know that a scroll through his Facebook feed would change the trajectory of his life.
“I saw a post about the Polk State Aerospace Program and thought, ‘wow – I can do this in Lakeland?’” he recalled.
Looking for more stability in his career, paired with the allure of his childhood dream, Reynolds enrolled in the Aerospace Program in January 2015.
“I was making a decent living, but without my education, I always had to start over at the bottom when I would get a new job,” Reynolds said. “Now I have my degrees to show employers that I have the education and the skills.”
And he doesn’t plan to stop now. Reynolds will start a master’s degree program in Aerospace at Everglades University in March.
He shared that Polk State Aerospace has prepared him well for his new career and pursuit of higher education – from expert faculty and supportive staff to rigorous curriculum covering all aspects of the industry, including commercial aviation and unmanned aircraft systems.
“Polk State Aerospace is a gem,” Reynolds said. “I consider it the best-kept secret in Polk County – in Florida.”
“Polk State Aerospace is a gem. I consider it the best-kept secret in Polk County – in Florida.”
After earning his Associate in Science in Aerospace Administration in 2017, Reynolds was connected to a job opportunity managing compliance with FlightSafety Textron Aviation Training. The company provides quality simulation training for individuals who fly personal planes or private jets, and the location in Lutz is home to seven multi-million-dollar simulators that replicate nine different types of aircraft.
In January 2019, he assumed the position of manager of flight training devices with the company, where he oversees the maintenance of the simulators and ensures compliance with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations and other international aviation organizations.
While Reynolds may not be taking to the skies, “I get to play with airplanes every day,” he said.
“There are nine airplanes outside my door that I can fly and, for me, that is the accomplishment of my dream.”
In addition to transforming his life through education, Reynolds began his journey to better health while attending Polk State and working full-time. Since 2016, he has lost about 70 pounds. On Dec. 1, he completed his second full marathon and plans to run one marathon per year for the rest of his life.