Local pilot’s legacy reaches beyond 9/11

By Maya Rodriguez KUSA

High above the world—it is the place where Captain Jason Dahl once soared, until that one tragic day, now seared into our collective memories.

“9/11- a day that really changed for everybody,” said Capt. Tom Bush, a former co-worker of Capt. Dahl and a friend.

Captain Dahl was the pilot of United Flight 93, which crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. His story could have ended there, if not for his wife, Sandy, and some very dedicated friends.

“It was definitely Sandy’s idea,” said Kevin Larson, a friend and neighbor of the Dahls’ in Ken Caryl Ranch. “She wanted to do something to commemorate, to turn something so hideous into something positive.”

Larson was one of the people who helped launch the Captain Jason Dahl Scholarship Fund, to help those seeking a career in aviation.

“We have a lot of aging pilots,” said foundation board member Pam Raitz-Rocho. “We have a lot of people that are wanting to get into aviation, but it’s very costly to go to college.”

The foundation began in 2003 with two $1,000 scholarships: one for a student attending Captain Dahl’s alma mater of San Jose State University in the Bay Area; the other for a student studying at Metro State University in Denver. During the past decade, what started out as a small foundation, grew into something much more.

“It just instills a deeper desire to better yourself and further yourself,” said former scholarship recipient Justin Dean.

They need a boost and they need some encouragement and we hope we give them that.

Justin Dean is now a commercial airline pilot for Frontier Airlines. Michelle Bush is also a commercial pilot for Frontier Airlines—something she says would not have been possible with the Capt. Dahl Scholarship she received at San Jose State.

“It meant the world to me,” Bush said.

The two are also part of the now 50 former aviation students, who benefitted from the scholarship fund, now in its 11th year.

“They need a boost and they need some encouragement and we hope we give them that,” said Capt. Bush, who also serves as the vice-president of the foundation.

In a few weeks, the fund will award 17 new aviation scholarships: a total of $27,000. For those involved from the beginning, it’s come a long way and has continued thriving, even after Capt. Dahl’s wife, Sandy, passed away a few years ago.

“It just warmed her heart. It really did. It’s what she wanted to do,” Larson said. “And I’m sure Jason would be just delighted.”

So are those who think about him, as they chart their own path in the skies above.

“I think of trying to make him proud and continuing his legacy that he left,” Bush said.

“A legacy lives on, where you can look to him and say, I want to be like that,” Dean said.

The foundation’s board said they received applications for this year’s scholarship from 35 different schools in 21 states. For more information about the scholarship fund, click here.

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