Editor’s Note: This is the latest article in our Young Pilots series, where we hear from young pilots (16-24) about learning to fly. If you or a young pilot you know has a story to tell, email us at: [email protected]
I always get the question, “How did you become interested in aviation?” I have become a professional at answering that question. The EAA used to have a day called “teacher day” during the week of AirVenture, and my mom would get discounted tickets. My mom would take me each year ever since I was in kindergarten. I am also fortunate that my parents bought a house less than five minutes away from the airport. So I always run outside to look and stare at the planes flying by at low altitudes. Once in a great while, I like to either bike or drive to the airport on a relatively busy day to watch the planes take off and land. Other than that, I have other aviation experiences as well.
There is no history of pilots in my family. I always have to explain myself in a very detailed way to my family about what I want to do in the future. There are all of these pilots who have dads or moms who are pilots as well, but I am alone. I don’t mind it, but I am starting the aviation trend in the family. I have had to figure things out on my own regarding the world of aviation, and I have done my research so I have learned a lot.
April 4, 2011, was the day of my Young Eagles flight and the day that changed my life. It was the start of my flight experiences. When we took off, I knew that I wanted to fly for the rest of my life. It was the greatest experience anyone could ever have. Immediately when I got home, I began the video training portion of the Sporty’s Private Pilot Course which was free, thanks to the Young Eagles Program. I was so excited to learn about the science of aviation that I couldn’t stop watching the videos.
I searched the internet about job shadowing an airline pilot, and read that it would be impossible due to high security restrictions. Then I decided to email Southwest Airlines. A few weeks later, they emailed me back saying that they had found someone who would be delighted to contact me about a job shadow. It was Tom Gilbert, Chief Pilot for AirTran Airways. I emailed him, and we set a date when I would come down to KMKE. On March 29, 2012, I was ecstatic to job shadow an actual airline pilot.
I was so anxious that I could barely sleep the night before. When I got there, there was an AirTran Boeing 717-200 that was waiting to board in a couple of hours, so Tom and I walked through the jetway and into the cockpit. He showed me a lot of the controls and how the basic systems work. Then, we went inside his office, and we talked about different routes to becoming an airline pilot. I explained my plans for college, and basically my entire future involving aviation. He told me that I would be able to get through flight training and pass my check rides easily because of how motivated I am. I learned a lot of things about aviation that day. After that, I knew for sure that a career as an airline pilot is what I am going to pursue.
After completing part one of the Sporty’s course, I received a voucher for a free first flight lesson. I called the Fond du Lac Skyport to schedule my introductory flight lesson. July 6, 2012, was the day of my introductory flight. We took off, climbed to maneuvering altitude, and my instructor handed the controls over to me so that I could get the feel of them. I learned how to coordinate turns with the rudder, descend, and enter the traffic pattern to land. After we landed, my dream of becoming a pilot was further solidified. Ever since that day, I haven’t been able to drive past the airport without looking to see if any planes are taking off or landing.
This past spring, I took the FAA Private Pilot – Airplane written exam and I passed. That motivated me even more than what I had been.
But what does my future hold for me? I have no clue.
Well, I do have plans but only God knows they are just plans and He has His own plan for my journey to becoming an airline pilot. I am currently a junior in high school, and I am continuing to study the private material so that I retain the material for when I start flight training. My written expires in the spring of 2015 so I will be doing my flight training next summer. I plan on doing my flight training for my Private next summer.
After high school I want to attend Minnesota State University – Mankato and major in Professional Flight. I know that college and flight training put together in the same four years sounds expensive. Well right you are! It is very expensive. But I know for sure that it will all pay off in the end. I hope to someday fly for Southwest or United Airlines. But I would ultimately be satisfied with any airline.