Lightspeed Aviation has been a proud supporter of the Ray Scholarship for many years. Over 300 young pilots have had the opportunity to successfully follow their aviation dreams due in part to sponsors of this terrific program. They each have their own reasons for wanting to become a pilot. They all have various inspirations, and goals. And we want to hear those stories.
We asked the scholars to share their stories with Lightspeed to hopefully inspire others who are also thinking about pursuing a life in aviation. This post that Lightspeed is now able to share, is the first in this new Monthly Series highlighting these ambitious pilots.
Flying has always been a part of my life ever since I was a baby. My dad has been a pilot for over twenty years and is a huge inspiration to me. He was also the person who inspired me to become a Ray Scholar. I really enjoy flying, and I think after I get my PPL, I’ll go for my instrument and maybe commercial. I’ve thought about becoming an airline pilot, but I’m still on the fence about it. My biggest advice to future pilots and scholars would be not pressure yourself too much. Yes, you want to finish as fast as possible or yes you have deadlines, but you don’t want to do anything you’re not comfortable doing.
What made you interested in becoming a pilot? I became interested in being a pilot from a very young age. My dad who came to United States from El Salvador in the 90’s started flight training, but never progressed far due to not knowing English well. Growing up my dad would buy me simulators and take me to air shows. From a young age I knew I was going to make this my career. Who inspired you to apply to be a Ray Scholar? Fellow Ray Scholars from my chapter are who inspired me to apply. I was very intimidated to apply and almost didn’t, but I was motivated to apply by past Scholars and was eventually blessed with the opportunity to be a Ray Scholar.
What are your plans after you have completed your training and licensing? I passed my PPL in January, 2023. I’m currently saving up for my instrument training. My plans are to complete my ratings and build time to one day work for an airline.
What advice can you give someone else who is interested in following in your footsteps? My biggest piece of advice is to step out of your comfort zone. I wouldn’t have met the people I know and call friends today if I never went to my first EAA meeting. I’m thankful I did and am even more thankful to have become a Ray Scholar.
I always liked the idea of flying as a kid. Whenever asked what superpower I would want I
always said the power to fly like a bird. As I got older I realized that I would never be able to fly
with wings of my own, but I would be able to get the next best thing, a pilot’s license. I was inspired to apply for the Ray Scholarship by Elroy Hilbert a family friend and CFI and also
by Mark Grocholl, a prominent figure and now friend in chapter 22. Now that I have my license I plan to build hours and get my A&P license. Later on I hope to be askydiving pilot and eventually work as a water bomber. A piece of advice I would give to someone looking to follow in my footsteps is that it’s going to be hard and a lot of work so don’t give up and find a community of pilots you can always ask questions to.
Hello, my name is Antonin Stoddard, I am 18 years old and a licensed private pilot. I have always been interested in flying ever since I was four years old! I remember having special cockpit visits with the pilots and just seeing how professional and proud they were amazed me. My local EAA chapters 1612, 1098, and 24 all had a role in mentoring me and inspiring me to become the Ray aviation scholar! Currently, I have been busy time building and gaining as much knowledge as I can each flight! I have obtained my tailwheel endorsement as well. My advice to anyone would be to just enjoy the experience of flight training it goes by so quickly! I do encourage to have a pretty open schedule as well 🙂
My EAA chapter back home, in Independence, Oregon, not only inspired me but also encouraged and supported me through my aviation endeavors. The EAA members noticed from the very beginning, starting with my Young Eagles ride, that I had a spark within me that was driven by aviation. Every waking moment since that very first, I have spent with my eyes and soul turned towards the sky. It was my mentors and supporters within my chapter that pushed me to apply for the Ray Scholarship not only for my Private Glider rating, but as well as my Single-Engine Land Tailwheel license. Being given the opportunity to fly has opened so many doors for me, including taking a job with EAA National and spending the summer sharing my love and passion for flying with young minds. I could not recommend the Ray Aviation Scholarship enough to someone looking for the chance to learn to fly simply because it provided me with more than I ever could have dreamed about. The family I have built at the airport has pushed me towards not only my love for flying but also a deep passion for building aircraft and aviation maintenance. I have been able to fly, build, and fix more aircraft than I can count due to the support given through my chapter and local airport community members. Because of the knowledge and support that has been passed down to me from my mentors, I have become a first year engineering student in mechanical and aerospace engineering at Oregon State University. My long term goal is to further my love of aviation by becoming an aerospace test pilot or work as a very technical and hands-on engineer. I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for me!
There were many aspects of flying that made me interested in becoming a pilot. The first thing
that drew me to aviation is the feeling you get when you fly in a small aircraft. Growing up I was
lucky enough to get to travel, so I flew in large airliners quite frequently. But the feeling you get
when you get in a small plane is so much different. Taking off in a small aircraft is amazing, you
can see everything and you are low enough to recognize the places you are flying over. The
feeling of greasing a landing is even more amazing. The first time I landed the C-172 I was
flying I could not believe it, I looked at my instructor and asked him how much he had helped
me on the landing and he told me he did not even have to touch the yolk. I think I smiled for the
entire week after that one landing.
My high school aerospace teacher, Mr. Steve Socolosky inspired me to apply to be a Ray
Scholar. My senior year, my school added an aerospace department and Mr.Socolosky was one
of the teachers that ran it. On my first day in class I was talking to him about one of my family
members who is a pilot and how much I loved flying with him. Mr. Socolosky encouraged me to
join EAA Chapter 166 of Hartford, Connecticut, and after the first meeting I was hooked. The
community was amazing and I was able to completely immerse myself in the world of aviation,
including helping work on assembly of a Vans RV-12. Without Mr. Socolosky, I would not have
my pilots license nor be going to college for aerospace and mechanical engineering.
My plans after I completed my training and licensing was to go to Oklahoma State University to
double major in aerospace and mechanical engineering, which is what I am currently doing. I
even was able to add a minor in geophysics, a topic that I am extremely interested in conducting
research in. I also was able to sign up to become a Young Eagles pilot, sadly I have not been able
to take anyone up yet, but I try to volunteer at rallies in my area and help educate children on the
different aspects of aviation and why it is important that we keep training and recruiting people
to become pilots.
Some advice I would give to someone who is interested in following in my footsteps is to work
hard. I know everyone says this, but it is really important, especially when it is for something
that you are passionate about. I had many setbacks during my training including being involved
in a car accident and moving halfway across the country midway through my training. If I had
not kept working hard and pushing myself to stay focused on what my goals were, I would have
never finished my license. It is also really important to have a good support system. I was
fortunate enough to have friends who were interested in learning about aviation and so teaching
them while I was learning for myself helped solidify the concepts I was learning in my training.
This was crucial in the time leading up to my check ride because I was studying for finals while
studying for my check ride and without my friends studying with me I would not have done as
well as I did on my checkride and oral exam. Lastly, take pictures and enjoy your experience.
When you are awarded a scholarship as recognized as the Ray Scholarship program it can be
very intimidating, this means it is crucial that you take time for yourself to make sure that you
have an amazing experience. One of my favorite memories during my flight training was
receiving my headset. The night I got it, I think I wore the headset for two hours. I had it on
while I read through the information packets and I used to wear it while I was studying and I
would play music through it because wearing the headset made me really feel like a pilot.
Nothing puts an aerospace grin on your face faster than putting on a beautifully crafted headset.
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!