A few students recently got a free plane ride at Schenectady County Airport.
It was just a quick, 30-minute trip around a portion of the Capital Region in a Cessna two-seater plane.
Christopher LeClair, a junior at Middleburgh High School, said it was a cool experience because he got to see Saratoga Lake and Ballston Lake while in flight.
“It was a little nerve-wracking but when you get up there, you’re kind of surrounded by too much beauty. You don’t realize that you’re nervous because there’s a lot to take in,” he said.
The event was part of Aviation Day on April 18 at the airport, whose purpose was to give students a taste of airline careers. It also promoted a new one-year aviation course for high school seniors being offered this fall as part of partnership between Schenectady County Community College, Richmor Aviation, Capital Region BOCES and Questar BOCES.
The aviation program has been run by Questar III BOCES for the last 13 years in partnership with Columbia High School, according to BOCES spokeswoman Monique Jacobs. Now, it has been expanded to Capital Region BOCES.
Working with a certified flight instructor, students learned about doing pre-flight checks and the basics of flying.
Students were not just passengers but also got to take the controls, which is something that Christen Kubernach of Westerlo enjoyed.
“It was fun. It was great. It was easier than I thought it was going to be,” she said.
Kubernach said she is interested in flying a jet in the Air Force, possibly an A-10.
Cody Martin, 16, of Middleburgh said he has always been interested in aviation and is considering a military career.
“I want to fly helicopters,” he said.
Students also took a flight simulator lesson in a Redbird FMX full-motion Advanced Aviation Training Device (AATD).
Enrollment in the fall course is limited to 10 students. The program will earn college credit through SCCC and BOCES has articulation agreements with other colleges so students may be able to transfer credits.
Andrew DeFeo, assistant superintendent at Questar BOCES, said at the completion of this course, students would have their private pilot’s certificate — sometimes referred to as their “ticket” to fly. They can fly at night and carry passengers but won’t be able to earn a living until they get their commercial pilot’s license.
DeFeo said it would typically require a year or two of training a couple days a week to obtain the license.
The employment prospects for pilots are excellent, according to DeFeo. The airline industry employees more than 580,000 people, according to an industry website.
DeFeo said salaries start at $25,000 to $30,000 a year but can go as high as $180,000 to $190,000 for a major airline pilot.
New pilots often start out by working for regional airlines and then work their way up to the major ones, according to DeFeo.
“Some choose to go on to be everything from a bush pilot to flying for companies checking power lines,” he said.
Others may become flight instructors, DeFeo said. Some earn what is often referred to as a doctorate in aviation — an air transport pilot license. That is what the major airline pilots have.
Often, students will get their bachelor’s degree in business and have a commercial pilot certificate as a minor.
About half the students who have taken this course go on to some type of career in aviation, including air traffic controller, airport manager, airline pilot and the military, according to DeFeo.
“We want them to have the experience of becoming a private pilot that opens doors and saves a considerable amount of money,” he said. The course is beneficial even if people don’t go on to aviation because it teaches lifelong skills such as working in a team, communicating and solving problems. “There’s a level of discipline and maturity that’s required to be a successful pilot,” he said.
For more information about the course, contact Ted Hennessy at [email protected] or 477-8771.
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