WARSAW — Few people get to try what they would like to do for a career before ever leaving high school. Even fewer are actually able to receive school credit for testing career goals.
Eric Baumgartner, 17, did all of this before he reached his senior year at Warsaw Community High School.
Since elementary school, Baumgartner has been fascinated with planes, though most of his love came from books. Two years ago, his high school offered an aviation program for the first time through the Warsaw Area Career Center. The first year involves normal classroom study and learning a vast amount of information that must be retained for the test. The second year he spent completing the actual flying lessons.
In order to receive a pilot’s license, Baumgartner had to pass a medical exam and have a total of 40 flying hours including 20 hours with his instructor, 10 hours solo and 10 hours mixed. On top of that he needed three night hours, three simulated instrument hours and eight cross country hours, which requires the pilot to fly more than 50 miles. Each section also involves completing particular takeoff and landing requirements.
For Baumgartner both the most difficult part and the best part was simply flying the plane. His instruction when he got into the pilot’s seat was to “fly the airplane,” which meant getting used to controlling the airplane and learning to keep the altitude level which can only come through practice. Baumgartner stated, as a student, he never felt ready for his first solo flight when it came time. Now his favorite part of flying is landing because it is one of the more challenging portions. He received his pilot’s license Aug. 14, just one day before the official first day of his senior year, and is the first student to do so through the WACC aviation program.
His current license does hold some restrictions. Baumgartner is only able to fly a single-engine plane and in good weather, meaning the clouds have to be at a certain altitude with no adverse weather conditions. He is considering going through the instrument rating skills training this winter in order to remove those limitations and allow him to fly in any weather conditions, be it foggy or cloudy. He also is considering doing charity flights.
When Baumgartner looks to the future, he is applying for both Purdue University and Indiana State University, Terre Haute, and plans to major in their aviation programs. He is also considering taking classes in engineering since he has enjoyed his classes at Warsaw Community High School. Career goals include becoming a commercial airline pilot for a major airline or a private pilot for an orthopedic company.
Currently Baumgartner has been able to use his pilot’s license only once on a flight around Warsaw as a birthday surprise for his mother, Deb Baumgartner.