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Eric Gaffney


Eric Gaffney, SoA Alumnus

Eric Gaffney, an alumnus of the School of Aviation, spent the lockdown portion of the pandemic a little differently than most of us did: he authored a children’s book.

Airick Flies High is about an airplane with one wing shorter than the other. “It’s symbolic of my life and career as a one-handed airline pilot,” said Gaffney. In design and color, Airick the Airplane is designed after the Piper Cherokees at OU. 

Gaffney describes the experience of writing a children’s book for the first time as awesome. He’s always been interested in writing a book, so when he found himself at home full time in April of 2020, his wife—an OU alumna herself—suggested he take the time to start writing.

“But really, with two little kids on a nice April in Oklahoma, there’s no time at all.” So Gaffney came up with the idea of taking his story and making it into a children’s book.

“As a kid, you run around and pretend to be an airplane with your hands out to the side. If I were to do that missing my right hand, the right wind would be shorter than the left wing. In the book, it’s all about overcoming obstacles and learning how to fly like all the other airplanes… It’s deeply rooted in me and my flying career, but it’s specifically related to my initial training, which goes all the way back to OU.”

Gaffney started at OU to study pre-med. Born without his right hand, Gaffney had self-doubt surrounding the idea of being a pilot, even though it was something he was interested in. “Long story short, I ruled out aviation and I went pre-med… And then the whole first year, I knew I wanted to fly,” he said. “That’s when I knew I wanted to switch.” 

“I did not choose OU for the aviation program, but given the chance to do so today, I certainly would because it’s a great program,” he said. “The aviation program is second to none, and is, without a doubt, the reason for many successful aviation careers.” 

Gaffney graduated from the University in 2010 with his Bachelor of Science in Aviation with a Professional Pilot Concentration and an Air Traffic Control Minor. 

“The number one thing that OU helped me with is getting me started in the regional airlines with the flow program that they have,” said Gaffney. “OU had a great placement program and prepped me for the future.” 

He also mentioned the high quality of the School of Aviation’s fleet. 

One of his favorite memories from his time in the School of Aviation is coaching and competing in NIFA, the National Intercollegiate Flying Association. Different events include dropping a bean bag or something similar out of the window of an airplane onto a target and precision landing. Gaffney got to participate twice: once at OU and once in Salina, KS. “It’s a way to take an airplane and go have fun with it. That’s what it’s all about.” 

Now, Gaffney is a pilot for United based in Houston. He started his flying career as a flight instructor at OU, and then entered the University’s flow program. A year after college, he joined Pinnacle, a Delta connection carrier with a preferential hiring agreement with OU. From there, he worked his way up and through the regional airlines, before joining United in 2016. 

“That’s always the ultimate goal, to get hired at the major airlines,” he said. “United was definitely the end goal, so it’s been my favorite.” Other highlights from his career include flying single-engine propeller airplanes in Hawai’i and flying up and down the West Coast for Compass Airlines. 

Gaffney wants current students to know that their education will define who they become in the workplace. “I fly with many different pilots that I have never met before. Small talk always leads to your background, which ultimately leads to your education. As an alumnus of the University of Oklahoma, you will always represent what it means to be a Sooner and forever carry that legacy with you. That is something to be proud of!”

Those interested in learning more about Gaffney or purchasing his book can find him at

By Kathryn Gebauer

Article Published: Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Eric Gaffney hold his children's book "Airick Flies High" in the cockpit of a plane.