Tech students take to the skies: Summer class gives students opportunity to step into the pilot’s chair during flight

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Bob Long instructs student Tudor Pascutiu on the finer points of flying as part of the week-long Summer Youth Programs class at Michigan Technological University.

FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP — As of 2018, about one-fifth of 1% of Americans were pilots.

That number should be higher, said Kevin Cadeau of the Civil Air Patrol.

Seventeen high school students took to the skies Thursday as part of Michigan Technological University’s Summer Youth Programs flight class. This year’s class included students from Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“I wish they would have had something like this when i was a high school student, because this is something I never dreamed of doing,” said Cadeau, raising his voice to be heard over one of the Cessnas taking off. “Here’s a nice chance for young people to experience it. Maybe they’d like to do it for a career.”

Though some students come in with flight experience, most of the time, it is brand new to them.

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette A flight co-piloted by a Michigan Technological University Summer Youth Programs student taxis on a runway at Houghton County Memorial Airport.

Students learned about flight planning, reading the weather and the instruments on the control panel. Before they fly, they also spend time on a flight simulator, using either yokes or joysticks. Students practice turns, climbs and other maneuvers.

“They get a really good feel of what it’s going to be like when they get in a real plane, so it’s not just overwhelming to them,” Cadeau said.

Civil Air Patrol and Experimental Aviation Association volunteers teach the classes. They flew students on short trips around parts of the Keweenaw, letting students take the controls for part of the flight.

Tudor Pascutiu of Farmington Hills, Michigan, wants to be a professional pilot. His first time flying was a good one, he said.

“I thought it was really fun,” he said. “I really enjoyed how you got to see Superior and then a lot of mountains and forests.”

Pilot Bob Long pointed out landmarks and quizzed Pascutiu on what to do in case of engine failure. (Based on their low altitude and the lack of clearings nearby, their best best would be to try for a water landing, he said.)

“Now you’ve got the bug and the thing will ruin your life,” he told Pascutiu. “Just a big money pit you keep pouring money into.”

Just after another flight landed, Jack Swelstad disembarked, telling a classmate, “Dude, it was so fun.”

Swelstad already liked planes, but signed up at the suggestion of his father.

“I felt like I was going to crash at first, but I got the hang of it,” said Swelstad, from Evansville, Minnesota. “I want to be a pilot now.”