In our next segment of the Profiles in Early Flight – Ray Scholar Stories, we spotlight 6 more young pilots’ stories as they continue along their paths as Ray Scholars – and eventually fully licensed pilots. 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.
I have been interested in becoming a pilot for a long time. I always thought that exploring the world through air was the best way to do it; and I still do. Throughout family vacations I got a small glimpse of the excitement of being in the air, and I was always disappointed when we landed because it meant that getting to fly was over. This dream got reinstated in me when my dad got his pilot’s license through his job. I was able to be with him every step of the way from beginning to end, and after the fact as well; we would go flying and tool around in the air just have a good time. I think this is really when my interest in being a pilot ‘took off’.
My dad was also the one who inspired me to be a Ray Scholar. Shortly after getting his pilot’s license, he began work building his very own airplane; the Van’s RV-9a. When we began to work on it, we kept talking about how nice it would be to have somebody else who he would be able to fly with, and somebody to fly the plane once he is too old to do so. Upon the start of building his own plane, he also joined EAA Chapter 33 nearby, and this is when he found the Ray Scholarship opportunity. He came home that day and brought it up to me (very enthusiastically) and said that I should apply for it and see what happens. I applied for it that night, and upon a few interviews and lots of emails, I was the 2022 Ray Scholar for EAA Chapter 33. 12 months after I started, my check ride was passed, and the world had gained one more private pilot.
Since then, I have started work towards my complex rating and am one flight away from completing that training. With college starting in the fall, I do not intend on starting IFR training yet. Once I finish school and have the funds to do so, I would LOVE to start IFR training and get more certifications so I can fly in different weather. It would give me more opportunities to fly, make more memories with my dad and the rest of my family as I grow older, and make me a more skilled pilot in general.
If I had any advice to give someone else who wanted to start, I would say don’t be afraid, just go for it! It is a time commitment for sure, but trust me, when it’s all over, you’ll be extremely satisfied with your accomplishment. It is also a lot of learning, but that’s what your instructor and mentor are there for. They will guide you all the way from your introductory flight to your first solo, and to your check ride. This whole experience is about learning, and that goes for even after you pass your final check ride. Just because you have a new card to put in your wallet doesn’t mean you know everything. It’s like my DPE said when she handed me my Temporary Airmen Certificate, “Not only is it a license to fly, it is a license to learn” and that couldn’t be more true. Whether you’re going to be a commercial pilot or just a recreational pilot, this can be your first step; remember, the sky’s the limit!
I am a proud first-generation enthusiast, and to my great delight, last autumn brought forth an incredible opportunity—a scholarship granted to me by the illustrious Ray Aviation Foundation. This life-altering moment has left an indelible mark on my journey. From the depths of my being, an unwavering passion for flight has always resided within me, and this scholarship has magnificently transformed the dreams of my younger self into glorious reality. With unbridled enthusiasm, I wholeheartedly plunged into the realm of aviation, immersing myself in a myriad of captivating youth aviation programs, including the revered Civil Air Patrol and EAA. While I am at the outset of my aviation career, the anticipation of what lies ahead fills me with immeasurable excitement. I eagerly anticipate the unfolding of my path and the wondrous destinations it will unveil.
My name is Jimmy Duffy and I was awarded the Ray Aviation Scholarship in 2020. The Ray Scholarship has provided me with many opportunities to meet with knowledgeable pilots and introduced me to the world of aviation with all it has to offer. After seeing how eager the EAA Chapters were to pass along their love and passion for aviation during my first Young Eagles flight, it inspired me to become a Ray Scholar myself. When I applied for the Ray Scholarship, I saw that EAA Chapter 15 had a scholar named Joey Ermel who was my age and was flying a tailwheel Aeronca Champ to earn his private pilot license. After seeing all of his accomplishments which were aided with help of his fellow chapter members, I became even more motivated to apply for the Ray Scholarship. I knew that if I wanted to become a pilot, applying through EAA Chapter 15 was the way to go. After fortunately being selected for the 2020 scholarship I found that flight training was going to be the hardest challenge I had ever endured. Going through the training I had my ups and downs, but I found that going into every new maneuver and procedure with an open mind was super beneficial to my learning. Now, two years later this mindset has still proven true in my flight training today. Since completing my private pilot training through the Ray Scholarship, I have earned my instrument rating and gone through over half of the training required for my commercial pilot license. I have also gotten the opportunity to fly over 10 Young Eagle flights and act as a mentor for our current Ray Scholar Piper. I plan to finish my commercial license this year before moving over to multi-engine airplanes. After multi-engine training I intend to become a Certified Flight Instructor so can I pass my love of aviation along to more people. Becoming a CFI would also allow me to train future Ray Scholars which would be a dream come true to have everything come full circle! For anyone looking to become a Ray Scholar themselves, I cannot stress enough that making yourself known at chapter meetings and events is crucial. EAA chapters seek individuals who are self motivated and not afraid to step outside of their comfort zone, so talking to the chapter members shows that you really are serious about wanting to become a pilot. Lastly, as I said earlier you also need to have an open mind going into everything. This will not only help you overcome obstacles in your training process, but it will also allow you to have the most fun during your training!
I have always been interested in the sciences and STEM. As I grew up I became increasingly interested in physics and aerospace. At one point I decided that I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. After countless bedtime stories about trips to the moon and documentaries about past and future space ventures, I realized that the way to do that was to first become a pilot. My interest expanded to aviation, and from there I decided to join the Civil Air Patrol, the program where I began my piloting journey. In 2021, I attended a National Flight Academy at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and it was here that I decided I wanted to take aviation a step further. Nearly a year later, I applied for and received the Ray Aviation Scholarship, and began a strict schedule of flying and ground training. I have recently completed my training and received my Private Pilot Certificate. Although my focus has shifted over time from space exploration to recreational aviation, I have always maintained an interest in STEM, and flying has been the perfect outlet for that. Throughout my life, my #1 supporter in this journey has been my Dad, who is also a Private Pilot. My Dad received his Private Pilot Certificate just a few years before I did and was the one who pushed me the most to achieve my goals. After I heard about the scholarship from a friend who had received it the year before, my Dad told me that I should apply and helped me through the application. After I received it and began flying, my Dad supported my through the difficult and tiresome moments of my training, assisted me in studying for the written exam and my check ride, and inspired me to do even better inside and outside the cockpit. Now that I have completed my training, I plan to continue flying and begin working towards my instrument rating soon. In the future, I hope to eventually become a CFI, to help others through their aviation journey, and to inspire others just as I was inspired. My advice for others who want to learn to fly is to stick with it and do your best. There will always be difficult moments in your training that may make it hard to continue with it. If you stick with it and actively try to continue growing, you will do it.
I was just like most high school kids who didn’t know what I wanted to be. One day our local EAA chapter member came down and talked in our aerospace engineering class and talked about aviation and offered a young eagle flight. I thought it was too good to be true. FREE FLIGHT?? But the day came me, and my buddy went down and flew as a Young Eagle. I was hooked and the first thing was this is what I wanted as a career, so I explored a lot of ways to be one. Didn’t have many funds and I was active with the local chapter so they said they had scholarships I can apply for including Ray Scholarship I did and luckily, I got the scholarship. After I completed now, I am in training for IFR, but money is being a big problem so it’s going slow but making progress. I would just tell anyone who is interested just make sure this is what you want to do then explore all the options you have. Be active around flying clubs or groups and just go for it.
I’ve been fascinated with aviation from the time I was young, and oftentimes I found myself peering up into the sky wondering what the view was like from up there. Young me couldn’t have even imagined that one day I would earn the chance to say, “it’s beautiful.” I knew I wanted to spend my life flying the moment the wheels left the ground on my first ever airline flight at age 5. That feeling of defying gravity never gets old, even to this day when I’m in an airplane almost every day.
I started flight training in April of 2020 at SimplyFly in sugar grove, based out of the Aroura Municipal Airport. My first Primary CFI was Jack Maechtle, a CFI-S based at KARR and working at SimplyFly. He shaped my entire aviation journey from the first flight. I distinctly remember my first lesson being without doors. That’s an experience I’ll never forget! Jack knew about my financial struggles from the start. At first, I was only able to afford one flight lesson a month. It got to the point where I wasn’t learning anything, just spinning in circles. Jack recommended I apply to the Ray Aviation Scholarship. So, I did. The first time applying, I got denied. My friend who was also training at the same school ended up getting the scholarship. She found out mid-training that she didn’t want to be a pilot. Thus, Jack handpicked me for the scholarship. This vote of confidence from him really shaped who I am as a pilot today. If not for him, I would not be so far into the aviation community, and I would not be giving back through young eagles.
I am currently in instrument training, and I hope to continue working through my ratings and certificates up to ATP, then to fly for a major airline, such as American. I hope to continue to give back to the community through the Young Eagles program and through being a CFI. I hope to have the honor to mentor many student pilots along their own unique aviation journey, just as many have done for me. Some advice for student pilots, you will feel as though you have so far to go. So many more steps to complete. Remember to take time to enjoy the journey, and remember you are living the life younger you used to dream about. Make them proud.
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!