Twin Cities ACE Academy Directors
DIRECTOR: FLOYD BALENTINE, UNITED AIRLINES
Floyd Balentine has been passionate about aviation since the age of five years old. Born in Chicago, Illinois, he had the privilege to travel many cities with his mother. It was during this time, his dream was to become an Airline Pilot. Two weeks after graduating high school, Floyd started taking classes at Saint Cloud State University. During his years at Saint Cloud State, Floyd had the opportunity to get involved in the Aero Club, Minority Student Programs, Advanced Preparatory Program, and Treasurer of the Counsel of African American Students. During the summer months in Saint Cloud, Floyd was a Counselor for incoming freshman and mentored students for a Math, Science and Computer Camp. He spent his last two years at Saint Cloud State working as a Resident Hall Advisor, where he encouraged and motivated other college students to be the best that they could be.
In February 1998, Floyd graduated from Saint Cloud State University with a Bachelor of Science in Aviation- Pro Flight. Upon receiving his degree, he took a position as a Customer Service Agent for Mesaba Airlines, where he gained experience on the Airline side of Aviation. That same year he was hired at the Saint Cloud Airport as a Certified Flight Instructor. Floyd served as a First Officer for Mesaba Airlines (now known as Endeavor Air) on the RJ-85 for six years. He became a Captain on the SF-340 in May 2006 until February 2008. In February 2008 he transitioned to the CRJ-200 as a Captain until January 2016. In 2016 he was hired by United Airlines as a First Officer on the Boeing 737.
Floyd served on the Pilot Recruiting Team at Endeavor Air where he assisted in recruiting and hiring several qualified pilots. Floyd also served as the president on the Saint Cloud State University Alumni Board of Directors, where he passionately helped to carry out the vision and mission. He enjoys giving back to youth what was given to him. He realizes hard work, self-determination and faith pays off in the end. Floyd currently resides in Oakdale, Minnesota with his beautiful wife Dee and their two handsome sons.
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: DONALD GARDNER, UNITED AIRLINES
Donald Gardner has been passionate about aviation since he was a small child. Born in Dallas, Texas in 1985, he had the opportunity to travel the country at a young age and it was during this time he became fascinated with flying. During his senior year of high school, he obtained his Private Pilot’s License and chose to attend Embry- Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida in order to pursue his dream of becoming an airline pilot. During his four years at Embry-Riddle, Donald had the opportunity to be exposed to what he loves: aviation and flying. Donald was involved in campus activities and worked as a Tutor Lab Instructor at the College of Aviation Flight Tutor Lab and as a flight instructor for the university.
In May 2007 he graduated Cum Laude from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Science. Donald also began his airline career in 2007 and gained experience with several regional carriers including Comair Airlines, Mesaba Airlines and Compass Airlines. He recently joined United Airlines as a First Officer on the Boeing 757 and 767.
Donald recently earned his Master’s Degree in Aviation Safety and Human Factors. He enjoys exposing the youth of tomorrow to the career opportunities available in aviation. He truly realizes the sky is the limit when it comes to the things you can achieve in life, as he would eventually like to become the Chief Pilot or Director of Flight Operations for a major airline carrier. Donald resides in St. Paul, Minnesota and enjoys traveling, reading, photography, watching sports and listening to jazz music when not he’s not in the flight deck.
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: VICTOR SMITH, DELTA AIR LINES
Victor L. Smith, Captain, Delta Airlines, is currently an Airbus pilot who has also flown the DC9 at Delta. In addition to the required ATP pilot license, Victor holds a CFI, CFII, and a type in the CE-500 Citation Jet. He graduated from the University of Memphis with a B.F.A. Degree in Music Composition. Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, Victor currently resides in Mendota Heights, Minnesota with his wife and three children. He enjoys teaching, running, and general fitness.
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: MICHAEL JOHNSON, PILOT IN TRAINING
Michael Johnson is a Private Pilot and Ground Instructor with professional expertise in Workforce Diversity, Outreach and Inclusion. Michael is involved with local schools and community partners to help ensure that educational opportunities in aerospace and related STEM fields are inclusive and open to all, especially racial minorities and other students traditionally underrepresented in aerospace career fields.
Michael graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 2005 with a Bachelor of Science in Aviation Management and holds a Master of Public Administration degree from Minnesota State University Mankato. With a strong interest in commercial space issues, Michael also works with related organizations such as the Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere Project (PoSSUM) Citizen-Scientist Astronautics program, and The Mars Generation Student Space Ambassador program, to provide a variety of unique aerospace scholarship opportunities for students to begin flight training, attend Space Camp, and participate in NASA-supported research.