Xavier Magazine

Profile: James D. Ott

Flying High | Ott went to cover the Farnborough Air Show in London in July and flew home with the Bombardier prize for best story on the airline business. His report in Aviation Week & Space Technology was about the impact of Sept. 11 on airport design projects. His entry was then judged best of show, earning him the Aerospace Journalist of the Year title and $3,000.

The Waypoint | As a child, Ott fell in love with flying and writing. He earned his first byline at age 16 writing for the Cincinnati Enquirer. He was hired as a full-time reporter while in college.

In the Blood | “My grandfather was a reporter, and I was always attracted to the stories. I can remember the first ones I ever read. In my sophomore English class, they treated us to adventurous stories.”

Taking Off | His career got a boost in 1978 after Congress voted to deregulate the airline industry and allow airlines to set their own destinations and fares. Working as a copy editor at the Baltimore Sun, he landed a job for Aviation Week covering the deregulation.

New Vistas | His work opened up the world for him. He’s flown on the Concorde and went to Africa when Pan American Airlines began service to what was then the Dark Continent.

Grounded | His career ran into some turbulence when the youngest of his five sons, who has cerebral palsy, turned 14 in 1994. Ott quit his job and moved the family back home to Kentucky so he could better care for him.

Accomplished | Ott still works on contract for the magazine from his Crescent Springs, Ky., home, but also writes for Business Week and is quoted by National Public Radio as an airline industry expert. He also wrote a book about jets in 1993, one about the airline industry in 1995 and a history of the Covington, Ky., Archdiocese last year.

The Pilot in Me | “Aviation has always been a great love. When I was 18, I took my first flight. I just thought I was floating.” He took two flight lessons—one in the 1960s and one in the ’70s—but family responsibilities kept him from obtaining a pilot’s license.

Poetic License | “To be a good pilot, you have to be a poet and a mechanic, and I’m not much of a mechanic. I wish I could have learned to fly. But I’m 64, so it’s kind of passed now.”

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