A Thank You From a Ray Scholar

By William McCarthy

As you may already know, I recently earned my private pilot certificate. I wanted to write to thank everyone at EAA and the Ray Aviation Scholarship Fund who has made this possible. I have been interested in aviation for as long as I can remember and have dreamed of becoming a pilot for many years. This is the first step in my aviation career with the hopes of becoming an airline pilot and flying around the world. I hope to share more as I continue my journey to become an airline pilot! Thank you again for this amazing opportunity!

My interest in aviation started when I was nine years old. It happened in Atlanta, Georgia. While disembarking our flight, I noticed the first officer completing his post flight. He noticed my interest and took some time to explain to me what he was doing. That layover, I stared out the terminal windows watching the aircraft maneuver the ramp. I was fascinated with the bustling activity centered on the aircraft. While boarding the next flight, I paused to gaze into the flight deck. I was intrigued by all the buttons and screens.

A few years later, I had my first Young Eagles flight at Suwannee County Airport (24J) in a Mooney. The aircraft’s owner let me take the controls for a few minutes. Eventually my family moved to central Florida. A new friend and a series of coincidences landed me at Chapter 534 in Leesburg. Rarely did I miss a chance for a Young Eagles flight. I was in the hanger whenever the doors were open to the youth.

Some of the adults asked me to help the other youth on the flight simulators donated from chapter members. I also helped to reconstruct a Mini Max experimental airplane. We built, covered, and installed new wings as well as installed a new propeller. At the beginning of 2020, I was approached by a few of the chapter’s board members asking if I would be interested in getting my private pilot certificate.

In April, I began flight training and was loving every second! On June 8, 2020, I had my first solo. My instructor and I did a few laps in the pattern before we parked, and he got out. I did two touch and goes and a full stop landing. It was very exhilarating to fly solo and prove to myself I could do this.

On July 31 I had my solo cross-country flight. I flew from Leesburg (LEE) to Gainesville (GNV) to Ocala (OCF) and back to Leesburg. At first, I was nervous about being far away from my home airport without an instructor. However, after a few minutes I started to relax. On September 2 I had my checkride after a weather delay two days earlier. The oral portion of the test was the biggest struggle for me. I had studied for hours and hours, but when asked questions the information seemed to escape me. However, I got through it and we went flying. The DPE asked me to perform several maneuvers that I had practiced with my instructor. After we finished that, we returned to Leesburg for some landings. We did three landings and then we parked the airplane on the ramp. I had earned my private pilot certificate!

A few weeks after passing the checkride, I returned to the airport for transition training in the C172. The following week, my dad and I went to Vero Beach (VRB) for lunch. I hope to continue flying and work towards an ATP certification to fly for an airline. I know there is a lot of hard work and challenges ahead, but I can’t wait to meet those challenges head on and achieve my dreams!

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