Aviation students fly over summer


Peter Ludolph, Staff Reporter

For many students at Lakeland, the end of the Spring semester brings much needed relief. Finals signal the approach of summer and a time to go home or get working at a job.

However, this is not the case for “over 50 percent of Lakeland Aviation students,” said Chief Flight Instructor of Aviation Brandon Molina.

At least as many as the estimated 50 percent of aviation students at Lakeland will be staying to complete their training over the summer. Christian Gillaspie, junior business major, said, “I took a job on campus in order to be able to stay and fly over the summer.”

There were three primary reasons for delays in training throughout this school year, according to Steve Vaught, assistant chief flight instructor of aviation. Vaught said, “There was a break in training in February, due to aircraft unavailability. Additionally, there was a transition to our 141 certificate, which means that we were delayed to begin training in the Fall, and the loss of an instructor also led to delays in training.”

The aircraft unavailability was caused by the breakdown of two of the program’s aircraft, which rendered both aircraft unusable.

Other universities offer flying over the summer similar to what Lakeland is offering. The main difference Vaught said, is “some students in Lakeland’s program are in a position where they must fly over the summer in order to graduate on time.” For this specific program type, it is often the case that students must stay to finish up training.

According to Vaught, “It is common for universities with flight programs to offer training over the summer” as the summer presents “better weather, better airplane availability and better instructor availability,” which makes it a good time for students to fly.

Due to Sheboygan’s climate, flying during much of the school year can be quite difficult because of the potential for ice accumulation on aircraft. Molina said, “I think summer is the better time to fly because don’t have to worry about the icing issues.”

Tim Fruit, senior chemistry major, said, “The challenge with flying during the summer is that I have other obligations to attend to. Even though flying in the summer is nice, it presents a significant challenge due to my time limitations.”

Vaught said, “We don’t consider flying for 12 months out of the year to be anything unusual. In fact, I would be disappointed if I was only allowed to fly nine months out of the year, because you’re losing the three most valuable months in terms of weather and fly ability.”

Molina added, “For us, it’s what’s expected as flight instructors.”

Students have similar opinions toward summer flying. Gillaspie said, “This is my second summer I’ve stayed on campus in order to complete flight training. I’m excited to continue my involvement with the program throughout the summer.”

Aviation demands extra time and input on behalf of students. In other professions, the risks associated with not understanding the material is often non-fatal. However, in aviation, not understanding is not an option.

Molina said “In our profession, if you’re not successful as a student you could die. That’s the reality of being a pilot. So if we have to stay and put extra time in to make sure students are successful, we will. I think any flight instructor would do that.”

The uniqueness of aviation within the programs that Lakeland offers is distinct. If you’re home for the summer and you see an airplane flying up above, keep in mind that it might be a fellow student of yours at Lakeland.