Flying is Ross’ passion


Ross Barton is a director of project management at Ologie, and he has a not-so-secret passion for all things flying. Between growing up next to one of the busiest airports in the world, and taking flight lessons in high school, and later discovering the world of paramotor flying, he has some stories to tell.

When did you begin to take an interest in flying?

I got the flying bug in early childhood. I grew up near the approach and departure paths to the Atlanta airport. My favorite thing to do was to just stare into the night sky to see the planes. They were coming in from every direction, lined up in the most orderly fashion. It was so fascinating, like a work of choreographed art.

I was born and raised in Atlanta, but my parents were from the Columbus, Ohio, area. We’d fly from Atlanta to Columbus for family visits and holidays. I’d also fly up during the summers by myself to spend time with my grandparents. (I think my parents needed a break… I was a handful as a child.) Every time I got on a plane, I had to visit the cockpit and say hello to the pilots. Back then, it wasn’t uncommon for them to bring a kid up during the flight. Being one of those kids who liked to press every button I came across, I was in heaven — there were so many buttons and switches in an airplane!

For years I tried to find ways to fly. In fourth grade, I drew a highly complex flying bicycle instead of doing normal classwork. Thank goodness for teachers that let my creativity emerge. Then, I tried to build wings for my go-kart and drove up and down our mile-long driveway out in the country. It would never take off, but then again, a two-by-four didn’t have the characteristics of an airfoil that I would eventually learn about. 

What made you fall in love with flying?

One day in high school, we had a new pilot fresh out of the Delta Academy come speak to our ROTC class about flying. I came home so excited, and my family sacrificed to make my dream become a reality. My junior and senior years of high school were mixed with flight lessons in the wee hours of the morning, several late evenings, and most every weekend. I’ll never understand how I managed the dedication and study it took to earn a pilot’s certificate and do all the things I did in those last two years of school. It was truly the age I learned to learn.

In high school, I also fell in love with photography and design, which led me to pursue a degree and career in graphic communications. That took me away from flying for many, many years. Eventually I decided to explore changing careers from publishing and advertising to becoming a professional pilot. Having stepped away from flying for so long, the technology in the cockpit was overwhelming. It was just computer screens and a few dials, compared to the standard “six-pack” which I grew up learning to read. The flight school I chose in New Jersey highly recommended that I pursue an instrument rating, to gain the skills and confidence of flying in the New York airspace and navigating all of the new technology. After a year and a half of working full time and intense study — both on the ground and in the air — I earned the right to fly “blind” and in the clouds. With this newfound confidence, I started working on a commercial pilot’s license, but never finished it because I decided to take a sabbatical from it all to hike the Pacific Crest trail.

What’s next for you and this passion of yours?

In the last decade, I moved from NYC to Ohio, started a family, and continued to pursue flying in new and exciting ways. The cost of renting a plane and remaining current became too much for me to justify with other goals in my life.

A few years ago, I discovered the YouTube videos of Tucker Gott, an influencer in the paramotor flying community. After a year of watching his and others’ videos, I decided to pursue training at Aviator Paramotor in Lake Wales, Florida. It was a two-week class, including both ground school and a foundational program to get in the air safely in the shortest amount of time.

Flying a paramotor is a form of flight unlike any other! Some people would say that you’re sitting in a lawn chair, with an engine and propeller on your back, and a thin sheet of material above your head. I suppose you are (even though that equipment is Italian made and of the highest quality). But the absolute freedom of this type of flying is unmatched. You feel the air. There is no window to obscure your view. Beyond your feet is the earth, the ground, the fields, and the trees that you’re flying over. Granted, we don’t fly that high — or at least I don’t — but it’s a perspective of the birds, a perspective of soaring, a calm perspective. Watching the sunrise and the sunset from a lawn chair in the sky is unlike any other feeling in the world.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the sky?

Flying has taught me to never stop dreaming. Your passions could take you down roads you’ve never explored to find things you never thought possible.