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Capt. Rene Larricq shares passion for aerospace education with squadron

Posted on 01/14/2021 at 05:11 PM by Virginia Smith

Capt. Rene Larricq in glider
Capt. Rene Larricq, AEO for the Albuquerque Heights Composite Squadron in New Mexico, is involved in the wing's glider program.

January 14, 2021

Meet Capt. Rene Larricq of New Mexico Wing. He is the Aerospace Education Officer of Albuquerque Heights Composite Squadron, SWR-NM-083. He also serves as Internal Wing Director of Aerospace Education for New Mexico. He and his son (then a cadet) joined Civil Air Patrol together in 1999. His AE interest began when he took his first ride in a jet in 1965. Now involved with the New Mexico Wing glider program, he helps with the New Mexico Wing Glider Encampment and with cadet orientation rides. He’s had a passion for aerospace his whole life and enjoys sharing that passion with youth. After COVID-19 led to remote meetings, his squadron pioneered the using Zoom for meetings. Another extra initiative he has developed is his AeroMail emails that detail interesting aerospace education topics. He freely shares AeroMail entries with fellow CAP members. We asked him some questions about his life and CAP career. His answers follow.

Current duty positions:

  • Aerospace Education Officer, Albuquerque Heights Composite Squadron (SWR-NM-083)

  • New Mexico Wing AEO assistant (internal)

How did you get involved in Civil Air Patrol?

My son and I both joined CAP together in 1999.  I had always been interested in aviation and thought CAP would be a good experience to share with my son. 

Tell us about your CAP career path that led to your current role.

I joined in November 1999; so, I recently marked 21 years with CAP. My original squadron in Durango, Colorado, was a composite squadron, but most of the senior members were not interested in the Cadet program.  A few months after I joined, the `Deputy Commander of Cadets had to move, and so I assumed the role (along with most every other duty position for cadets).  I had originally signed up as AEO, but for the next five years, I had to figure out how to manage the cadet program. Thankfully, there was one senior member (Bless you, Joyce Waters!) who had some experience and was willing to help me wade through learning what to do. I hung in there until a cadet with a lot of experience transferred to our squadron and aged out, thus taking over the reins from me. From that point on, I was able to focus on what I really loved doing: Teaching AE!  During this time, I also became the Colorado Wing assistant (internal) AEO. After several years I moved from Durango to Dolores, about an hour west, and joined the local cadet squadron as AEO, from 2010 till 2015, when we moved to Albuquerque. There, I joined the Spirit Squadron, assumed the AEO position, and within a few months also became AEO assistant (internal) for the New Mexico Wing.

Tell us more about your Aerospace Education background and why it is important to you. Include any awards/recognition you would like to mention.

My education in AE started in the summer of 1965. I got my first ride in a jet aircraft (TWA Boeing 707) when we moved from SFO to St. Paul, Minnesota.  I decided that I wanted to be a pilot on that trip. As soon as we got to Minnesota, I came down with the measles and was quarantined for two weeks. During that time my mother bought me a model airplane each day to build, thus helping keep me (and her) from going crazy.  By the end of that two weeks, I had half the planes in the USAF hanging from my ceiling! This got me interested in learning about the different types of aircraft and their uses.

A couple of years later we moved to Brussels, Belgium, (more 707 flights, this time, Pan Am). At that point I started to read a lot of books about airplanes and World War II stories. I remember getting a copy of the pictorial book Air Force by Martin Caidin, which became my go-to for information (oh, to have Google back then …). After a year there, we moved to Barcelona, Spain. My interest started to expand into other mechanical areas, like cars and motorcycles. At that point I became a total gearhead. I read many books a week covering both aviation and auto subjects.

Then I had my second epiphany. My father was an ex-Marine, and when the 6th fleet docked at Barcelona, they would take ex-military guys out on the carrier for a dog and pony show. My dad was able to bring me on a few of these excursions, and at age 14, I got to be the only kid on an aircraft carrier, at sea, doing full flight ops! We got to see takeoff, landings, simulated bomb and strafing runs; it was incredible. I still remember getting dressed in a flight suit and getting inside the cockpit of an F-4 Phantom tied to the deck. They even put the canopy down and let me fantasize for a few minutes (don’t pull that red handle, kid…).  After that I was 100-percent ready to go into the Marines and fly off carriers. Unfortunately, my eyesight had other ideas. Right about the time I was ready to graduate, my vision had gotten so bad I had to get glasses. This put an insurmountable roadblock in my dream of becoming a fighter pilot. They tried to get me to join anyway, but I did not want to be in the back seat, so I changed gears and decided on a different career path. I still kept a huge interest in aerospace, reading everything I could on the subject. I took my ground school during college time in Boulder, Colorado, but was too broke to afford to fly back then. I bought a cheap hang glider but soon realized that it was not very safe and sold it.

Fast forward 10 years and I was now living in Durango and finally had the finances to start flying, receiving my Glider rating in 1987. It was cheap to fly gliders back then, so this made it easy to just stay with non-power flight. Fast forward another dozen years and CAP came onto my radar screen. I originally joined to help get my son into aviation, but quickly became involved with the program. Besides running the cadet program, I also worked on my Emergency Services ratings and got Scanner and almost Observer completed. I got to fly right seat during this time, getting some stick time, and considered going for my power rating, but with a new young family, I found that difficult to afford.  I was at least getting to fly with CAP occasionally, and I also took a couple of sky diving lessons, flew in a T-6 doing a simulated dogfight for an air show, and then finally got my dream: a flight in a jet fighter!

Fantasy Warbirds in Santa Fe, New Mexico, does flight training in old jet warbirds, and I blew my whole income tax return one year on flying back seat in a T-33 jet trainer. This was the coolest thing I had ever done, and finally got me a taste of being Top Gun! In December 2019, I went back to Santa Fe and flew an L-39 Albatross jet trainer. This time, though, I flew from the front seat, taxied, did three takeoffs and landings at the controls, so this time it was the real thing. And I thought it couldn’t get any better than the first flight! As far as additional training, I am actively involved with the New Mexico Wing glider program. I help with O rides and participated in the Wing Glider Encampment last year, mainly as the auto-tow “pilot.” Also, in 2019 I was awarded the Wing and Regional AEO of the year, an honor I deeply appreciated. I have also received several Commanders Commendation awards along the way for my AEO efforts

Tell us about your career outside of Civil Air Patrol.

Since I couldn’t fly in the military, I went to Colorado University to study engineering, but got sidetracked when I took up the martial art of Tae Kwon Do. After graduating, I ran TKD schools in several Colorado mountain towns, traveling back and forth to teach during the week. I ultimately ended up in Durango doing this, as well as teaching skiing in the winter and doing carpentry in the summer. After marriage and with a child on the way, I figured I needed a real paying job and went through a series of them including bus driver, car salesman, carpenter, lumber sales, construction software tech support,  computer tech and construction accounting consultant, finally landing at an insurance agency, where I did the accounting for a few years and then became a commercial insurance agent. I also own a road construction business that I bought from a client about six years ago. In my spare time I also teach high performance driving at our local racetrack.

Why do you work in the Aerospace Education mission area? Why do you encourage youth in the Aerospace Education area?

In one word: PASSION. I have had a passion for aerospace for most of my life, and I love sharing this with others. This conveniently fit right in CAP’s mission of aerospace education. I encourage youths, both in and out of CAP, toward aerospace for many reasons. There are so many interesting opportunities out there to pursue as a career that can be both fun and well-paying. I know not every one of them wants to fly, but there are so many other cool related jobs that they could get; so, at every meeting I encourage them to study STEM and to keep their eyes open for interesting opportunities. I bring in people within the aerospace community to talk to the cadets about their fields and hopefully give them a spark that might lead them down the AE path for life. At the very least, I try to teach them as much as I can and encourage them to share this knowledge with others. I feel that if I can inspire passion for AE within them, that they will keep that ball rolling down the road in the future.

Tell us about which Civil Air Patrol aerospace education programs you use internally and externally.

Within our squadron, we always participate in the AEX and STEM kit programs. As this lockdown year has really hindered us working together in person, I have been trying to explore other ideas so that they can have hands-on AE activities, like building projects on their own and sharing with the group when we have our meetings. Our squadron pioneered using Zoom for our meetings, and we have not missed a single meeting since the initial lock down call, completing all the cadet program requirements, including AE. I also have helped with ACE (Aerospace Connections in Education) trainings and TOP flights over the past few years, and I plan to make working with AEMs a priority going forward.

What is the best advice you have for a new AE Officer working with cadets?

My best advice to new AEOs is to be excited!  Just narrating PowerPoints can be boring for cadets; so, tell them interesting stories, talk about exciting events, show cool videos or movies. Do whatever it takes to get them excited about AE, because that is the best form of motivation.

Do you have any suggestions for AEM retention?

To promote AEM retention, I have the same advice as to new AE officers. I would help keep them excited, so that teaching AE is fun!

Please tell an anecdote of a rewarding experience working with cadets: 

I have worked with a lot of cadets over the last 20 years, many of whom have gone into great aviation careers. One of the most rewarding things I get to see is the face of the cadet after landing their first O flight. When you see that sparkle in their eye and grin on their face, you know that they’ve been hooked.  At glider encampment last year, I had four cadets from my squadron get their pre-solo, which means they are basically ready to fly on their own but haven’t done it yet. Listening to them talk about that, while driving the van back to the dorms, was extremely rewarding.  I was very disappointed this year that our glider camp was canceled, because of COVID-19 protocols, so that I couldn’t get to see them solo.

Is there anything else that we didn’t ask that you’d like to add for this spotlight on an AE Officer?

I believe it is not just the AE officer’s responsibility to learn and share aerospace. It is incumbent on each member to take part in this. To me, AE is the best part of CAP activities, and I hope that I can inspire more people to think this way.

Capt. Larricq stands with cadets next to a CAP glider
Capt. Rene Larricq has been with Civil Air Patrol since 1999 and enjoys working with the glider program, shown here in pre-COVID sessions.


 


 

 

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