NKOTB: Aiming high, freshman trains to become a certified pilot

Freshman John Snyder with Tony, a sea plane pilot, during a trip to Alaska in July.
(Photo used by permission of Snyder)
Freshman John Snyder with Tony, a sea plane pilot, during a trip to Alaska in July.

In the “New Kids on the Block” series, new students will be interviewed on their life outside of SCDS.

New freshman John Snyder has taken flying lessons for six months and is working towards becoming a licensed pilot. Next will be freshman Naomi Turnbull. 

Q: What inspired you to start flying?

A: My uncle was a navigator on CI30’s  in the Air Force. (Navigators) help the pilot figure out where they are going. They transport troops and cargo. I found it interesting.

Q: Whom do you fly with?

A: My instructor Michael. He is part of a flying school. When I’m 16, I can fly by myself, which is called soloing.

Q: Are you interested in being a professional pilot?

A: Yeah, because it’s a passion of mine and I would like to follow that. There is nothing else I want to do.

Q: What kind of pilot do you want to be?

A: First I’m going to (fly) in the military, and then (I’ll) be a commercial pilot.

Q: Do you have a license?

A: No, I have to wait until I’m 17.

Q: Are you planning on getting a license?

A: Yeah, I’m going to get multiple licenses, not just the CFI’s (Certified Flight Instructor) pilot’s license.

Q: What other kinds of licenses are you going to get?

A: A multi-engine rating (I can pilot a plane with multiple engines) and an IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) rating (I can pilot in bad weather).

Q: Why do you want multiple licenses?

A: It would help prepare me for college.

Q: How do multiple licenses help prepare you for college?

A: Colleges want you if you have more licenses and more experience. The more experience, the better.

Q: Are there flying colleges?

A: Yeah, there are some that are focused on aviation itself. University of North Dakota is one of them.

 If you go there, there are more (career) options. I could be an aeronautical engineer. There are more things to fall back (on).

Q: Is flying fun? Do you get nervous?

A: It’s fun, but it’s not exciting. I don’t get nervous.

Q: Where do you fly?

A: The Auburn airport.

Q: Have you ever flown out of California?

A: I’ve flown over Nevada, Tahoe, Napa, Chico (and) San Andreas. (When flying outside of Sacramento) you have a lot going on. You have to contact the NorCal Approach and The Oakland Center.

Q: What are these?

A: They are like air traffic control. They keep aircraft from crashing into each other.  [The first is the Northern California TRACON facility in Mather, California – TRACON is an acronym for Terminal Radar Approach Control. The other is the Oakland ARTCC (Air Route Traffic Control center) also known as the Oakland Center. It specializes in handling two separate air control functions.]

Q: How high do you go?

A: It depends. The highest I’ve (flown) is 11,500 feet, but I usually fly at 3,000-5,000 feet over the Sacramento area.

Q: How often do you fly?

A: Once a week for three hours. I have 30 hours of experience.

Q: Have you ever flown your family?

A: No, just my instructor. When I solo I (could), but probably won’t. My mom doesn’t like turbulence. I have a sister (whom) I will fly.  

Q: Do you own a plane?

A: No, (I) rent it from Moch Five Aviation, a flying school. They own a bunch of airplanes, and you rent from them on a four- or two-hour block.

Q: Do you want to own a plane?

A: Yeah, when I’m 65 and retired.

Q: What type of plane do you fly?

A: (I usually fly a) Cessna 172 Skyhawk, but I have also flown a Piper Arrow.

Q: What’s the difference?

A: The Cessna is a high-wing so the wings are on the top. The other is a low-wing. They are (from) different companies, and the throttle position is different.

Q: What is a throttle?

A: It’s a lever that you pull in and out to control the speed of the aircraft. The Cessna throttle is in the middle. The Archer (throttle) comes out vertically.

Q: Has anything ever gone wrong while you were in the air?

A: Nothing major. The heading indicator broke (once). It is basically a compass. It stopped turning the right way, so I didn’t know exactly where I was going. But I practice for things going wrong.

There are a lot of different things to practice. For instance, (I’d) cut the engine and then find a “best” field, which is basically a bunch of empty grass. One-thousand feet up, I’d put the engine back on.

You can also put the airplane into a stall and then recover. (A stall is) when you’re too far up and you run out of fuel. You just start falling to the ground.  

Q: What’s your best memory?

A: I was landing at Mather Airport, and there were two runways. (To my left) a training fighter jet took off, went straight up and started doing spirals!

By Anna Frankel

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