Jack's Journal: Learning To Fly - Northern Michigan's News Leader

Jack's Journal: Learning To Fly

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Northwestern Michigan College is about to celebrate 50 years of teaching students how to fly. 

It all started in 1967, now with graduates worldwide. Flying for major airlines, cargo companies, bush pilots in Alaska, they come from all walks of life.

“Students come here whether they are 15 or whether they are 70. We have people who wanna be professional pilots, to those we call bucket listers, who just wanna get a license for fun. They come here, we sign them up with an instructor and they start flying day one,” says Alex Bloye, director of aviation.

And it starts in a simulator. 

I’ve crashed big rigs and freighters in simulators and my next challenge is to fly and land a plane.

Abigail Smeltzer drew the short straw to be my flight instructor. I’m told she’s tough but fair.

My first thought is these planes are hard to get in to! 

There are lots of buttons, levers and nobs. I also noticed that the simulator does a nice job of making you feel the real deal, the sensation of movement, it’s there.  With Abigail’s help, takeoff was smooth.

Man, there are lots of dials to keep track up, got to make sure I’m not nosing down, but I can’t make us go too far up.

I’m supposed to be able to hold the yoke with two fingers. I’m guessing this death grip is too much. I have to remember what Alex told me.

“Don’t over fly it. Let the air craft do the work for you,” says Alex. “Remember this is sailing, not jet skiing, that’s what I tell students. You want to be smooth as possible.”

This is a lot of work.

Now, the landing. Simulator or not, I have an appointment with the ground. Will I crash this one?

I have a secret weapon. Abigail my flight instructor. Her job is to teach, yes, but also to keep us both alive.

The landing, well let me just say as much as I failed with all of 15 minutes of flight time, she made sure this rookie was smooth on the landing.

Nailed it!

This simulator was a lot of fun, but for students it is serious business and lots of fun.