Achieving a Dream

On 4 January, 2016, after many months of intense study and flight training, high school senior, Melvin Mateo, passed his Private Pilot Practical Exam and earned his Private Pilots License. The passage marked the completion of six months of hard work.

Mateo, a senior at DaVinci Science High School, has been in the Giving Kids Wings Flight Academy training program for the last 3 years. Melvin’s dreams of becoming an airline pilot began when he was seven years old, listening to the Air Traffic Controllers and watching the steady stream of jets landing at LAX, only 1 mile from his home. “Becoming a pilot has been my biggest dream in life, I had no idea how to start or where to go until I came across GKWFA.”

Melvin's first flight lesson

Melvin’s first flight lesson

As a part of the GKWFA program, Melvin went for his first flight in a small aircraft on a beautiful, sunny California Saturday, 29 September, 2012. “The first step I made onto the airport tarmac and the first smell of 100LL [aviation fuel] gave me butterflies in my stomach and sent chills through my body ” For Mateo, the flight reinforced what he already knew: that a career in flight was his strong desire. “I will never forget the longest lasting smile that I have ever had in my life, on that day. I knew my home was in the air.”

Melvin after passing his written exam

Melvin after passing his written exam

Three years later, on 6 July, 2015, Melvin began career flight training toward his Private Pilot’s License. Just six weeks later, Mateo inched closer to his dream of a professional piloting career when he soloed a Piper Warrior for the first time. “When I took flight and looked to my right I couldn’t believe it. I was flying all by myself. I was in disbelief that I was the sole manipulator of the controls. When I landed, I yelled in excitement as my main wheels touched the runway smoothly like butter. I couldn’t believe what had just occurred.” A month and a half later, Mateo flew away from the comfortable nest of Torrance Airport during his first cross-country solo to another local airport.

Melvin with his parents after his first solo

Melvin with his parents after his first solo

Just a few more months later, despite the heavy load of studies for a normal high school student, Mateo went for his checkride with FAA Examiner, Joe Justice at Santa Monica Airport. After passing the nearly three-hour long oral exam, Mateo began the “Practical” or the flight portion of his exam. “I positioned onto Runway 21, took a deep breathe, and trusted my hard work and training.” As the checkride progressed, Melvin felt his confidence grow. “I didn’t let the plane fly me. I took charge of it. It honestly felt like the best flying I had ever done.”

After completing all of the required maneuvers, only one more landing remained. “I knew I was one more landing away from being a certified pilot.” Mateo nailed the landing and received a firm handshake from Examiner Justice. Mateo remembers thinking to himself, “I can’t believe this; I feel like I’m dreaming.” As the reality began to set in, he reflected over the previous several months. “It’s amazing how my months of training paid off during my checkride. I can now share my passion and fly my friends and family. I rarely feel this way, but I’m 100% proud of what I’ve just accomplished.”

Mateo shakes hands with Examiner Joe Justice after passing his checkride

Mateo shakes hands with Examiner Joe Justice after passing his checkride

Mateo has already launched directly into his studies for the Instrument Rating, the training of which he hopes to complete during the first part of the summer.

If you’d like to help Melvin afford the costs of his training, sponsor him directly by clicking on the “students” tab above, click on his profile, and make a donation.