An Astronaut from Nigeria? That’s Not Going to Happen

Ebenezer Henry

Photo: Ebenezer Onyeogaziri Henry

Recent ECST Graduate Lands Career in Aviation Operations

As a young boy in Nigeria, Ebenezer Onyeogaziri Henry was interested in aviation, but never in being a pilot. “I just wasn’t interested in the flying part” he says. “I did want to be an astronaut for a while. But then I thought, an astronaut from Nigeria? That’s not going to happen. So, I decided to study aerospace engineering.”

To pursue his dream, Henry moved to the U.S. to attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. He soon learned, however, that American aerospace companies were not always open to non-U.S. citizens working in their companies. Searching for an alternate career option led him to Southern California.

Today, after earning associate degrees in Aviation Science and Commercial Flight at Mt. San Antonio College and a bachelor’s degree in Aviation Administration from Cal State LA, Henry has found a home in airport operations and administration. Even before graduating from ECST in 2021, Henry began working as an intern at Aspen/Pitkin County Airport in Aspen, Colorado. After four months, he was hired full time as an airport operations security coordinator. His exposure to the security, safety, and efficiency aspects of airport operations has inspired him to continue his education. He was accepted into Purdue University’s online program and starting this fall is pursuing a master’s degree in Aviation Management and Sustainability.

Henry’s degrees were earned while he was a full-time single dad to his son, Omari, who is now nine years old, and while working full time. Henry is justifiably proud of making the Dean’s list twice during the two years it took him to earn his degree from Cal State LA. “I like to be busy,” he says, with a grin.

Dr. Rachel Friedman, Associate Professor in ECST’s Aviation Administration program, describes Henry as “smart, interesting, and unique… just an all-around good person. He really is an exemplar of our program and a student any professor would enjoy having in their classes.”

Henry says of his time at Cal State LA: “It was phenomenal. The professors were always willing to talk about education, goals, and aspirations but also about life.”

As someone who explored several types of careers in aviation before settling into airport management and operations, Henry advises other students who are interested in the field to do the same. “There’s lots of room in aviation for people who don’t want to be a pilot,” he says. “In addition to airport management and operations, there is air traffic control, airport safety and security, and firefighting.”

As for Henry, when he thinks about the future, he sees himself in an airport environment making policy and positive change around safety or helping airports go green. Says Henry, “Maybe I’ll work for the federal government or someday even run an airport.”

In the meantime, he says he’ll continue his education and focus on raising Omari who, according to Henry, wants to be in aviation “just like his dad.”