By Mike Deak
GOSHEN – At some point in most people’s lives, they imagine what it’s like to fly. Whether in a jet fighter, in a small personal plane or with wings of their own, the ability to soar above the ground is a fascination for so many.
For a handful of young people in and around Kosciusko County, they are learning what it’s like to get their feet off the ground and set their sights on the true horizon.
For a small number of high schoolers in the Warsaw, Whitko and Tippecanoe Valley school corporations, a program exists to make those dreams to become a reality. The Principal of Aviation Management school is an option for those, even without a minute of flying experience, eventually work their way to wings. One of those who took advantage of the course, taught out of the Goshen Airport by Eric Coburn, is current Warsaw junior Noah Knepp, who has always looked to the air in wonderment.
“Personally, I am more comfortable flying than I am doing any of the book work,” Knepp said. “The first time I ever went up in a plane, I had never flown before other than on a vacation. You get up front of the plane, you have full control. Once I got up there, I got hooked on it.”
Coburn noted the program began in 2014 and has had more than 120 students take part. To his recollection, 15 have gone on to get their private pilot’s certificate, which allows them to fly anybody in a private aircraft. Eight are currently in college to get their Airline Transport Pilot certification, the incentive to fly commercially with an airline company.
“Just three of the 121 have been in a private general aviation airplane before, most have never been a plane in their life,” Coburn said. “What we try to do is get everyone up in our plane and let them fly. Take off, climb. We let them level off, do turns, do about everything they would do in their first lessons with the exception of landing. I do that. If anything breaks, then I have to pay for it!”
Coburn added any grade level can take the course, which is an elective done after school. Coburn teaches a King Schools course, fashioned after the teachings of John and Martha King, big names in the aviation field. There are 12 topics broken down into subtopics covering all of the basics of the ins and outs of the airplane, reading weather and the rules of the airways. Once those 12 topics are checked off, there is another series of tests that are overseen by an FAA advisor. Get through those tests, and it’s go time.
“Do you know what you’re looking at, can you figure out what all of the numbers are in front of you once you’re in the cockpit?” Coburn said. “The kids get to see the questions, hear the questions, then they have to answer the questions. It’s a lot of information, but each of those who have passed have all been very happy about doing it.”
Added Knepp, “You can start flight training and walk into the office, have no idea what you are doing, and Eric will teach you. His classes are packed with 50 years of flight experience.”
Knepp was the most recent student to pass the ground course, getting his certificate earlier this year. He accrued daytime and nighttime hours, cross country flights, maneuver flights, simulated instrument flights, and then got through the testing. His goal is to eventually become an airline pilot or work with a charter company.
“To me, that sounds really interesting to never know where you are going to go, travel the company,” Knepp said of potentially being a personal pilot. “There’s more steady work working for an airline. I just like flying, I have a lot of fun doing it.”