In this December publication of the Ray Scholar Stories Series, we focus on another 6 young pilots’ journeys to becoming the pilot they have always dreamed of. We hope you are enjoying these testimonials and can help spread their stories to others. Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Like all aviation lovers I spent a lot of my childhood staring up into the sky. I was blessed to have the opportunity to attend West Michigan Aviation Academy for high school. WMAA, for short, is an aviation centered high-school with 3 training asel aircraft, a glider, and a carbon cub which they are building as a part of the Build-A-Plane class. I spent my high school days surrounded by people who loved aviation. Getting to build aircraft, learning about all things aviation, and learning to fly was a dream come true. By my senior year of high school, I was working for my local small airport and had my private pilot’s certificate. Now I am an instrument rated pilot building hours while working for Signature aviation at KGRR with the dream of one day becoming a bush pilot.
My name is William Ramirez, and I am a 2021 James Ray Scholar. According to my mom, I’ve wanted to be a pilot since I first started talking. During family vacations I was always obsessed with the airplanes and the airport. There was something about being in the aviation atmosphere that just felt right to me. Thanks to the help of Lightspeed Aviation and the James Ray Foundation, my dream of being a pilot became a reality in February of 2023 when I received my Private Pilot’s License. Growing up I didn’t have a lot of flight specific mentors until I joined Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 1117. During monthly meetings I met a multitude of people obsessed with aviation. When I saw my flight chapter award a local scholarship to a member similar to my age, I became determined to receive their next scholarship. After several years of chapter dedication and networking I was selected as my chapter’s first ever James Ray Scholar in 2021. Now that I have my license, my goals and aspirations seem to be more in reach every day. I hope to one day fly commercial planes for a major airline. However, I want to keep my options open. All that really matters to me is that I get to fly consistently for the rest of my life. Whether I’m instructing a younger generation of aviators, or flying across the world, I just want to be in a plane. To anyone aspiring to be a young aviator, I would say, “share your obsession”. In the world of aviation there are hundreds of people who will talk to you for hours on end about flying. As long as you are building your love for planes or aviation in general you will always have a community around you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions just because someone is older than you. There might not be a lot of people your age that share your passion, so get comfortable interacting with people you normally wouldn’t. The aviation community will welcome any aspiring pilots with open arms, you just have to share their love.
Throughout my life, my passion for flying has been unwavering. One story that my parents love to recount is from when I was just four or five years old. My dad had the incredible opportunity to go on a thrilling bi-plane ride, and as any aviation enthusiast would understand, I was extremely jealous that I couldn’t join him. While he soared above, I remained on the ground, tearfully longing to experience the same exhilaration. This childhood memory has stuck with me and my parents, and it marked the beginning of my deep fascination with aviation.
As I grew older, my passion for flying only intensified, and I began relentlessly begging my parents to consider flight school. We started exploring flight schools in Frederick, MD, and soon realized that pursuing my dream of becoming a pilot came with a significant financial burden. It was disheartening to think that my aspirations might be limited by financial constraints.
However, my mom came to the rescue with a fantastic idea – she suggested we attend a Young Eagles event organized by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). From that moment on, my life took a remarkable turn. At the Young Eagles event, I connected with passionate aviators who shared my enthusiasm for flying. They invited me to join them during their build nights, where they worked on planes in a T-hangar all year round. This experience further solidified my determination to pursue a career in aviation.
As I eagerly shared my dreams of attending flight school with fellow aviation enthusiasts, they introduced me to the Ray Scholarship. Without hesitation, I applied for the scholarship, and to my delight, I was selected as a recipient. The Ray Scholarship provided me with the opportunity to complete my flight training, a dream come true for me. Following my successful flight training, I graduated from high school, which was another significant milestone in my journey.
Now, as I stand at the threshold of my aviation career, I am faced with the decision of choosing the right school to further my education in aviation. Although the choices seem overwhelming, my ultimate goal is crystal clear – to become a commercial pilot, either flying cargo or passengers (whichever opportunity comes my way first). I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities that have led me to this point in my aviation journey.
My childhood fascination, the support of my family, the camaraderie I found at the Young Eagles events, and the invaluable assistance from the Ray Scholarship have shaped my path and fueled my determination to pursue a career in aviation. As I continue my search for the ideal aviation school, I remain focused on my passion and commitment to becoming a skilled and responsible pilot. My journey has taught me the value of perseverance, determination, and seizing opportunities when they arise. I am excited about what the future holds and the adventures that await me as a professional pilot.
In conclusion, I want to emphasize that becoming a pilot or a Ray Scholar is not an easy walk in the park. It demands dedication, hard work, and a true passion for aviation. The journey can be challenging, but the end goal is undoubtedly worth every effort.
I first wanted to be a pilot when I was a small kid. My dad was an A&P mechanic and would show me the projects he was working on, and occasionally I would get to ride in them. He was the inspiration behind my journey in aviation. I was one of the earlier Ray’s Scholars, and since earning my PPL I have gone on to become a CFI and teach others. In a couple of months, I will be entering training for a regional airline. My advice to anyone taking on any level of flight training would be to build relationships and community around aviation, the EAA is a great place to start.
I became interested in being a pilot after taking my first flight out of Long Beach Airport at the age of 5 years old in a Cessna 152 with my uncle who is a CFI. My dad inspired me to apply to be a Ray Scholar because he would always tell me that he wishes he would have finished his flight training for his private pilot license. So, when the opportunity came to apply for a scholarship that would help me complete my flight training, I knew I would have to pursue this amazing opportunity. Since I just recently finished earning my private pilot’s certificate. I am now starting the training for an instrument rating. The one piece of advice I would tell anyone who is following in my footsteps is to never give up. I had my fair share of setbacks, like having to switch flight schools and getting my checkride canceled, but since I never backed down, I never gave up and was able to finish my training.
I’m happy to share my story on how the Ray Aviation scholarship helped me earn my private pilot’s license!
I’ve always been fascinated with aviation for as long as I can remember. My fascination was definitely sparked by my grandfather, David Seitz, who has been a pilot longer than I’ve been alive. My fascination and love for flying only grew with every flight my grandfather took me along on. As you may have guessed, I wanted to start working towards my private pilot’s license. Unfortunately, just like many young people pursuing their pilots license, I didn’t exactly have the money to make it happen (especially at 15). Even though I didn’t have a lot of money to throw at my ambitions, I do have an amazing grandfather (yeah, the same one I mentioned earlier) that was more than willing to help me get started. His 1967 Cessna 150G was the perfect airplane to do it. I had the perfect airplane and all the help and support I could ask for, but I still needed a good instructor that was willing to go up with a 15-year-old kid. Fortunately for me, my grandfather had just met a guy named Vince Piesha. Vince was looking for a place to store his Cessna 152 and asked my grandfather if he would be willing to rent him a spot in his hangar. After some talking with Vince, my grandfather learned that he was actually a CFI and a long-time pilot that had flown everything but a washing machine, (in fact he may have taught the Wright brothers how to fly. Haha!) My grandfather made a deal with him to give me flight training in exchange for hangar rental. About a year and a lot of fond memories later, I took my first solo flight! The exact date was 3-6-2020 (one day after my 16th birthday)! Shortly after soloing, my grandfather told me about a new scholarship that our chapter was going to be awarding that would help me get my license. I applied for the Ray Aviation scholarship and was fortunate to be awarded it sometime in September. The scholarship gave me the ability to finish getting my private pilot’s license which I earned in June of 2021 (just a couple of months after my 17th birthday).
My end goal is to have a career in aviation. Currently, I’m working towards becoming a fighter pilot with the USAF, as well as working towards a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, and most recently I joined the Air National Guard to work on the F-35 lighting 2.
My advice to anyone looking at getting their pilots license: I’d just say, don’t ever give up and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.
I’d also like to give a big thank you to Lightspeed for the awesome Zulu 3 headset! Nothing quite compares to it in my opinion!
Stay tuned for more stories from these determined pilots. We have collected many more months’ worth of stories that we will share over the near future. Congratulations to all of these pilots and Blue Skies!