By Rye Spooner
Students at d.tech are extremely ambitious when it comes to their passions and future careers. In fact, many d.tech students have started staking the early steps to achieve their dreams, steps that one would normally take in college. One of these students is Renato Flores, who wants to become a commercial pilot. I sat down with Renato to ask about the work he’s doing, and what steps he’s taking to achieve his dream:
Q: When did you first develop an interest in flying?
I went to the Hiller Aviation Museum camp as a small child for many years, and they would let us play on the simulator, and I thought, “Hey this is pretty cool”, and I eventually went enough times to where I learned a thing or two about planes. When I would drive back home, I’d pass by the airports and I’d see all the planes and be like “hey I know what kinda plane that is”, and it was really cool.
There was one time, where I went to the 3-Zero Cafe, and we were having dinner. The owner came up to me and asked if I wanted to ride in his plane, and I was like, “Uh yeah.” He let me fly the thing around for a little bit, and it was super cool. I was around 10 at this point, so that’s when I was like “Wow this is super cool”, but I kinda stopped at that point, and just played on the simulator. That’s when I learned a lot from home.
Then freshman year, I thought being a pilot would be pretty cool so I started looking into it more. I looked at the requirements, and you have to have a college education, which is a given, or be in the military, so I looked into the military for a while, up until sophomore year and I was like, “Maybe not!” haha.
Q: Why did you shift away from the military interest?
I think my views on U.S. politics changed a lot, and I don’t really agree with what we’re doing now, and I don’t really want to die for a dumb cause.
Q: So, you stated that you had two pretty clear choices, but how did you acquire that information to make those plans?
Honestly, at first it was really just a simple Google search. Then I looked at the requirements on some websites. I think I started on Wikihow…Yeah, I know, Wikihow.
I recently found out that Mr. Wall went down the path that I want to go [down], and that he actually has his pilot license. So I’m using him more of a reference, because it’s cool to see that he’s done most of the stuff I want to do in regards to flying. He’s not my teacher though, so I don’t really see him that often, but I ask him questions about flight school and [get] help on the physics based parts of the test.
Q: How did you find out about flight school, and how did you sign up?
Well, there’s a preliminary called “ground school” actually, and you don’t touch a plane yet. But I started at the San Carlos Flight Center and it’s about a 12 week course. …You just walk in like, “Hey I wanna sign up for the course!” and they help you out and get you signed up. It’s the same instructor for ground school, it’s kind of like a small college course. And at first I thought it was all going be people my age, but there’s really a lot of different people there.
Oh, and the reason I started with ground school, is that they teach you the basics there, so you don’t have to pay for more instructional time while you’re in your plane during flight school. Because that costs a lot of money, and I want to use the time wisely.
Q: So you’ve finished ground school, and you’re in flight school currently. What are the next steps for you to become a commercial pilot?
Basically, there’s an SAT-like test for flying called the FAA Knowledge Test, so you do ground school, finish your practice test, you get your score, then you get your student pilot certificate.
It’s kind of like a driver’s license, but for flying a plane.
The next steps would be to actually obtain my private pilot’s license, and with that, I’d be qualified to fly my own rental plane. Then there’s actually a level [beyond] that, so I need [an additional] rating to fly through clouds. From there, there’s other ratings that you can get.
Q: Do you think taking these steps in high school has benefited you in some way?
Definitely. Starting early has helped, and if you look at airline pilots, they’re all in their 40s, because it takes such a long time to get there. For your commercial pilot’s license, you need 900 hours of flight time. In the air. Then for air transport you need 1,500 hours. So starting early, especially in a diverse high school where I can talk to people about these things, like Mr. Wall, or Mr. Wilgus, whose dad used to fly planes.
Q: What advice would you give students here who are also trying to get jump-starts on their careers?
If you know exactly what you want to do, and you’ve followed it for a long time, whatever necessary qualifications you need prior to getting that job, start now. You might think: it costs a lot of money, it’s a lot of time. But when you’re older, you may not have your parents’ financial support, if you have it now, and you won’t have the time, because you’ll be working some other job. So start now.