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Flying Above the Expected

Aaron Chow | achow19@dtechhs.org | June 11, 2018
Junior Spencer Wong (left) is apart of Civil Air Patrol which allows him to fly. Photo provided by Spencer Wong

Did you know that according to the Federal Aviation Administration, there are about 5,000 aircrafts in the sky at any given time? It is impressive how widespread flying has become as it requires a great passion for it, considering the hours of training and financial costs associated with obtaining a license to fly.

Despite the level of dedication required, there are a number of students at d.tech who share a passion for flying. Junior Ethan Yu, who started flying a year ago, describes it as “a unique opportunity that many my age don’t get to experience.” Another student, who aspires to become a pilot, junior Daniel Levin, has been flying for over two years, and describes that “whenever I am in the air, I just feel free, like all my worries are left on the ground.” Spencer Wong, a junior who started flying two years ago, describes flying as exhilarating because you are going so fast. Additionally, junior Jordan Duong, who started flying a year ago, describes it as extremely fun and exciting experience. The sensation that these future aviators experience from cruising at over 10,000 feet above sea level at at nearly 120 miles per hour is why most of them enjoy flying so much.

Flying is an expensive hobby. Things like the cost of the airplane, maintenance and fuel cost an arm and leg for the average American citizen. However, these costs did not stop these aspiring pilots from flying, as most of these students found other ways to soar among the clouds. Many utilized programs that subsidize the large costs of flying or offer them entirely for free. For example, Levin started his two year journey through a program called the Young Eagles, which, as Levin states, is a “program for people between the ages of eight and seventeen to fly for free.” Levin states that through this program, he was granted the opportunity to fly for free out of the San Carlos airport every weekend for twenty minutes. The Young Eagle is part of a larger organization known as the EAA where only a small annual fee is required to become a member. After that, its members are able to fly with minimal training as they fly with a pilot who will explain all the controls of the aircraft prior to takeoff. The members are only able to take control of the aircraft once the pilot brings the aircraft to a cruising altitude.

Other students utilized another program. Wong, Yu, and Duong all got their start through a non-profit corporation called the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) also known as the United States Air Force Auxiliary. CAP runs a program that gives its members many opportunities, including the opportunity to fly in an airplane for free. Since CAP is a nonprofit organization, there is only a small fee that needs to be paid yearly to enter the program. In addition with an age requirement of between 12 and 21, practically anyone can join and start flying. Similar to the Young Eagles, minimal training is required as the accompanying pilot with will explain all of the control surfaces before takeoff.

CAP basically allowed them to fly in the front seat of a plane for free without any prior training. This may sound pretty scary, but as Wong says, it is pretty safe as you are flying with a licensed pilot who will take over if anything goes wrong. The pilot will perform the takeoff and landing, but the member is allowed to manipulate the controls anytime in between that. Duong says that members are given ten O-rides over the course of their career, five of those are flown in a powered aircraft while the other five are flown in a glider. O-rides are basically where the members are in the co-pilot seat of an aircraft and are able to control and fly the airplane except taking off and landing.

Their flying opportunities through CAP are not only limited to small fixed winged aircraft but also helicopters. As Yu states, “I got to fly in a black hawk, which was pretty fun, because the pilots performed evasive maneuvers similar to how they would fly in an actual mission.”

Despite their great passion to fly, these students have no plans to pursue a career in aviation. Levin stated that he will mostly view being a pilot as a backup due to the “strict medical requirements as well as the number of hours of flight experience” needed to become one. Additionally, Wong expressed that he would not able able to contribute to society as he would as a pilot.

 

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