Empowered to Fly: GKWFA Alumnus Melvin Mateo Pursues his Dream of Becoming a Professional Pilot

By Tabby Yang.

Melvin Mateo has wanted to become a pilot ever since he was a 9-year-old kid. He lived near LAX growing up, and remembers climbing onto his roof to watch planes taking off from the airport and sailing across blue skies.
“The systems involved and everything associated with flying have given me the goosebumps since I was very small,” Mateo recalls. “It was like, ‘Wow, this is something greater than myself!’”

In his last year of middle school, Mateo remembers hearing about the Giving Kids Wings flight training class offered at Da Vinci Science High School in El Segundo. He decided he would attend the school so he could enroll in the flight seminar.

Melvin learns to preflight during his first flight lesson, October, 2012.

“The quality (of the instruction) was amazing,” he says. “It was really structured and easy to understand.”
Melvin invested his energies in studying for challenging academic classes while also pursuing his dream of becoming a pilot. Through the Giving Kids Wings program, he met GKWFA founder Dan Mikkelsen, who has served as his mentor ever since. He successfully completed the training that GKWFA offered and has gone on to earn his instrument rating and his commercial licenses for both single and multi-engine airplanes. Currently, he is working on earning his flight instructor certificate, and his goal is to eventually become a commercial pilot for a major airline.

Asked what his favorite part of flying is, Melvin says, “I just really like how it’s dynamic. It’s always changing; it’s never the same.”

Melvin with Examiner Joe Justice after passing his Private Pilot Checkride in January, 2016.

Melvin says the best part of the Giving Kids Wings program for him was gaining Dan Mikkelsen as his mentor.
“I’d say that’s one of the most important things if you want to be a professional at anything,” he commented. “You really do need a mentor, someone you look up to.”

In addition to his accomplishments in earning his instrument ratings and commercial licenses, Melvin has begun further education at Santa Monica College. He is taking a semester off to focus on earning his Flight Instructor Certificate, but plans to go back to school and eventually transfer to UCLA, where he will finish his college degree.

Already a commercial pilot at the age of 19, Melvin has a huge headstart toward his airline career.


“Melvin is one of the most dedicated, motivated, and proactive students I have had the pleasure of teaching over the past 13 years,” Mikkelsen says. “He has balanced a tough school schedule with a demanding flight training schedule. I’m extremely proud of how far he has come and believe he has a bright career ahead of him.”