Westminster Aviation Camp offers a look at what flying is all about
Thursday, July 16, 2009 10:53 p.m. MDT
By Cimaron Neugebauer
Andrew Marvin doesn't yet have a driver's license, but that did not stop him from taking the chance to man the controls of a Piper single-engine airplane at 8,500 feet.
"I like the complete freedom; within limits you can do whatever you want. I just like having that freedom," Marvin said as he took over the controls from his instructor high above the snow-capped mountains in the clear skies above Salt Lake City on Thursday.
Marvin, a 15-year-old from Petoskey, Mich., came to Utah for a Westminster College Aviation Camp this week because flying is in his blood.
"My great-grandfather was a medical pilot and my uncle flies a Cessna," Marvin said as he maneuvered the four-seat Archer III plane. He hopes to continue the family legacy with plans for a future in the Air Force flying F-16s.
"I really started (flying) last summer," Marvin said. His uncle would take him flying in northern Michigan. While exploring flight, Marvin would look through old pilot's magazines that his uncle would give him. He saw an ad in one magazine for Westminster's aviation program and decided to apply. Through a scholarship from his high school, Marvin was able to come to Utah to get real life experience to see what flying is really all about.
"Most of them have no idea what they are in for," said part-time Westminster flight instructor Dave Seger, who took Marvin up on the flight and let him make his first unassisted landing at the Heber City Airport. Students took off with instructors from the Kibbie Executive Terminal at the Salt Lake City International Airport. Instructors at the camp allowed some students, depending on previous experience, to fly the plane on the flight path from Salt Lake City to Heber City.
"Flying a plane is easy — anyone can do it — but being a professional pilot takes a lot of discipline. It is an eye opener for students to see what it involved," Seger said.
Before take off and landing, Seger had Marvin work through the numerous checklists that are needed for a safe flight. Aside from education on plane maintenance and responsibility, the essence of the flight was supposed to be having fun.
"It's really fun seeing how excited the kids get. It reminds me of when I first started flying. The main goal (of the camp) is to have fun," Seger said.
Michael DiGrazia, a current student of the Westminster flight program and former attendee of the summer camp said working as a counselor this year at the camp allows him to share the essence of what he learned back when he was going through the camp in high school.
The aviation camp "made me realize how much effort and professional atmosphere there is," DiGrazia said. He noticed how much work there was, but also enjoyed the rewards that came from flying. DiGrazia has one semester left at the college before he starts a professional career in aviation.
Westminster's summer "College Experience Camps" run July 12-18 and include robotics, aviation, writing and Money 101 camps. This is the first year the FAA is sponsoring the college flight program as part of the Aviation Career Education academy program.
Of the 60 students who attended this week's camps, 12 attended the aviation camp, according to Gail Avendano, Westminster's director of aviation student support. Students from around the country flew in to attend the camp — some from as far away as the Netherlands and England. Avendano said she hopes the camp motivates students to start thinking about colleges. There is a "difference in professionalism" by combining flight training and a college education, according to Avendano. The summer camp, now in its eighth year, teaches high school age students about not only flight skills, but also management and communication in the field.
For students attending college during flight schooling, Avendano said she believes, "You are not only getting the training you need, but also showing you have a broad liberal education as well."