As a member of a family steeped in aviation, I have always walked the earth with one eye skyward. My grandfather, Frank Piasecki, was an aeronautical engineer and an early pioneer in the development of vertical lift aircraft. He invented the PV-2, the second successful helicopter to fly in the United States, as well as many other helicopters such as the “Flying Banana”, the first successful dual rotor helicopter, and the VZ-8 Airgeep, a flying jeep contracted by the military in 1957.
My six aunts and uncles (his children) have taken the baton and carried aviation through their generation, five of them going into aviation related jobs at some point in their careers and all six receiving their pilot’s and/or helicopter pilot’s license. Because of the close relationship our family has had with aviation, I have had plenty of contact with aviation throughout my 15 years on this earth. I have flown with my Uncle Fred numerous times and have even interned at Piasecki Aircraft, a company formerly run by my grandfather and now by two of my uncles. I also remember playing a game called Roplanes 2 in my early childhood, a game where oe controls an arrangement of blocks somewhat resembling an airplane and flies other boxes dubbed cargo to different islands.
But even with all this contact with aviation, the moment I decided that I wanted to be a pilot was surprisingly not related to any of my family members. It was on a fall night at a small airport in New Jersey. My family and I boarded a small single engine plane chartered by a small regional airline. Because all the passengers seats were occupied, the pilot asked me if I wanted to sit in the co-pilot seat. I accepted, excited to fly in the front seat of an airplane for the first time. I remember looking in awe at all the instruments and wondering what they meant, reading the small vague words next to them and trying in vain to determine the use of each one. As we took off my eyes drifted from the instruments and looked to the sky. As we smoothly climbed through the cool fall air, the horizon sank and eventually disappeared below the dashboard. All I could see were the stars, illuminating the night sky and twinkling down at me. After this experience, a part of me became determined to learn to fly. I had always known that I wanted to fly, but I never before had been truly determined to do whatever it would take to become a pilot. As Leonardo Da Vinci once said, “For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return”.
I talked to my uncle, Greg Piasecki, who talked to me about what I could do to learn how to fly. He said that I was too young to get my license but that he would help me begin the process of learning how to fly. And help he certainly did. He gave me a subscription to the AOPA magazine, sent me many books that he had once used in his training, and recommended that I look into getting Microsoft Flight Simulator to begin to learn the basics of controlling an airplane. He also provided me with encouragement and information as I struggled through the dense textbooks he had provided me with. I have no doubt in my mind that if it weren’t for my Uncle Greg, I would have never begun to learn how to fly. I also must attribute much of my inspiration to my Uncle Fred, as he has helped me in numerous ways as I have been learning to fly. He has encouraged me sit in the copilot’s seat of his Cessna Skymaster on many flights and has given me advice and instruction as well as sometimes letting me take the yoke when at cruising altitude. He and my other uncle, Uncle John, have provided me with a plethora of knowledge concerning Aviation during my time interning at Piasecki Aircraft and he has provided me with many learning materials throughout my journey to learn to fly.
When I got FSX, my flight training took a turn for the best. A refreshing break from the dense information and procedures in my many textbooks, FSX was as educational as it was fun, reminding me of why I had wanted to fly in the first place and giving me as close to real world flying time as I could get. I even took lessons from a simulated instructor in the learning center. My dad noticed my dedication to flying and gave me a yoke, rudder and throttle for FSX as well as a promise that he would get me real world flight lessons once I received my virtual private pilot’s license on FSX. I plowed through the many lessons in the FSX learning center, all the while continuing my reading of the many aviation textbooks I had at my disposal. Sometime in early 2015, I began to take a crack at the practical test. The simulated examiner was one ruthless computer program. I remember being immensely frustrated after being failed because I had slightly diverged from the 10 degrees of bank and speed of 120 mph that the examiner requested, a feat that required the use of every spare horsepower the simulated plane could muster and extreme concentration, all while following a VOR, keeping the plane coordinated, and constantly asking myself why the examiner wasn’t satisfied with a normal rate of climb. But after many attempts at the checkride and many revisits to the learning center, I finally completed the checkride, almost as excited at knowing that I would never have to listen to the incessantly annoying voice of the examiner again as I was at receiving my private pilot’s license. I printed the certificate and showed it to my dad who congratulated me and began his search for a flight school. After talking to many pilots, he settled on Fischer Aviation, and arranged me to have an introductory lesson with Bob Smetana. I had finally begun flight school.