This is Home: Major Ross Elder; The Next Chuck Yeager?

Published: Jan. 22, 2021 at 5:02 PM EST
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Major Ross Elder grew up in the Mid-Ohio Valley, went to Williamstown High School, and has graduated from the United States Air Force Academy.

He says when he was a kid, he knew he wanted to take flight.

“My biggest desire was to one day become an astronaut,” Elder said. “My dad took me to space camp, and what was funny was he enjoyed it so much himself, that he went back as an adult, and took the camp again as well. So, I’ve been hooked on that ever since. That’s been the dream.”

Ross recently became the second West Virginian in history to be accepted as a test pilot for the U.S. Air Force, second only to the late Chuck Yeager, who famously broke the sound barrier in 1947.

Elder uses Yeager as an inspiration, and is honored to come from the same state as him.

“It’s pretty unreal to realize that every day that we are flying out here, we are flying over the same Rogers dry lake bed that he did in 1947 when he broke the sound barrier,” said Elder. “And, it’s incredible to believe that I grew up only two hours away from where he did in West Virginia.”

Growing up in the Mid-Ohio Valley, he did not have the same experience or exposure with the military branches that other kids did across the country.

He had to dedicate himself, and he credits where he came from, and what he learned along the way, for what got him to this point in his life.

“Most people had not even heard of the place,” said Elder, speaking of the Air Force Academy. “I remember going to the recruiting office and them asking me to bring back information just because it wasn’t known of, it wasn’t available. So, it’s been awesome to at least venture out of state and realize that I only got there because of stuff that I learned along the way.”

Major Elder has a pending astronaut application, but he assumes that it may still take several years for that part of his journey is realized.

He knows that there are many students in small towns across the country that want to be in his position one day. His advice to them: always follow your dreams.

“As long as you start early, you map out where you think you want to go,” he says. “Then you stay focused and keep doing the thing that you love, then things start happening for you.”

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