After much study and hard work, high school students Emil Beaird, Asa Cusick, and Tim Marin passed their licensing exams this past summer and earned their private pilot certificates with a glider rating. Their accomplishments came after all three had participated in year-long flight school ground training seminars hosted by Giving Kids Wings Flight Academy (GKWFA) at DaVinci Science High School and Hawthorne High School.
These three students, who are all planning to continue on in their flight training, have been interested in flying since a young age. “Since I was a small child, I [have] always had airplanes flying over my head,” recalls Emil Beaird, 17, who grew up near the Los Angeles International Airport. “And when I went to DaVinci they had a flight school program there, and I was like, ‘Maybe I should join.’ It sounded really cool.”
Seventeen-year-old Asa Cusick, meanwhile, dreamed of being an astronaut as a child. “That’s kind of been…my dream job, in a sense,” he says. “But when I was that young, I didn’t really know what that meant.” When he came across the GKWFA flight school seminar, he saw it as one way to get a step closer to his dreams of flying into outer space.
For Tim Marin, 16, a penchant for flying runs in the family. “I have an uncle who works for USAirways,” he says. “And my aunt, she’s a flight attendant.”
In the summer of 2015, the three young men participated in a training camp with Santa Barbara Soaring at Santa Ynez Airport in California, where they learned to fly gliders – small aircraft that don’t have engines or propellers. To take off into the air, gliders must either use a winch or be towed by a powered aircraft. According to Dan Mikkelsen, a certified flight instructor who serves as GKWFA’s executive director, the advantage of learning to fly on a glider is that it’s significantly less expensive than flying a conventional powered aircraft. Glider pilots are also considered more skillful because it requires more finesse to fly an aircraft without an engine.
Beaird says one of his favorite parts of learning to fly was getting to enjoy the scenery below.
“You can look out and see mountains on the one side and vineyards and pastures on the other side,” he notes.
After their initial introduction to flying last summer, Beaird, Cusick, and Marin returned to the glider camps this June to complete further training and prepare for their exams to receive their private pilot licenses – glider (PPL-G). Their exams contained three components. They each had to take a written test on their flying knowledge, followed by an oral exam, where designated flight examiner Dan Gudgel tested their knowledge of navigation, maps, and other essentials. Lastly, they each took the practical portion of the exam, where they went up on several flights with the examiner and showed him their flying skills.
The students were all feeling very nervous before their exams, but the anxious feelings subsided once they finished and found out they had passed.
After his last test flight, Gudgel was telling Beaird how he could improve, especially “now that you’re a private pilot,” he said. Beaird remembers, “At that moment, I knew – I looked at Asa and we both knew that I had passed – and we both smiled, and I felt amazing!”
Cusick notes that finding out he had passed was “a moment of relief,” and Marin recalls that when he found out he had passed, he felt “super happy”!
The students are planning to continue on and earn the powered add-on to their licenses, which will enable them to fly aircraft with engines. In preparation for this, they are participating in further ground training through GKWFA. Beaird and Cusick, both high school seniors, hope to get their powered add-on before they head off to college in the fall of 2017. For now, they’re continuing to practice flying.
All three young men say that flying has been a boon to them personally.
“It changed me because it made me feel more confident and that I can do what I want to do,” Marin noted. “And it also shows me that anything is possible.”
The students’ flight training, while very valuable, is also expensive. They save a lot on their training by taking their ground flight instruction courses at their high schools through GKWFA, but engaging in practical flight training at airports like Santa Ynez is still a big investment.
“GKWFA works to provide scholarships of up to 50% of the total training costs, to put dreams of flight within reach of students and their families,” Mikkelsen said. “Combined with our early classroom training, the costs savings can be significant, transforming flight training from dream to reality.”
If you would like to help support these young men as they work toward the next step in their dreams of becoming pilots, you can sponsor them directly by clicking on the “students” tab above, click on their profiles, and make a donation.