'Soaking it all up': Emma Quedzuweit

October 11, 2012

Fall semester classes have been intense for Emma Quedzuweit, a college sophomore and nursing student from Weimar, Calif.

But the course load is in keen competition with another project that is moving along for Quedzuweit at a great rate: earning a private pilot certificate.

Actually, she said in an interview, the two study programs complement each other.

“Being a pilot makes you better at anything you do, because you have this mentality: You’re precise, you know how to prioritize, how to be calm and exact,” she said.

Recently, the soloed student pilot with about 30 hours of training was looking forward to her next flight lesson—a night cross-country—out of California’s Auburn Municipal Airport, where she is a student of flight instructor Jennifer Meiners at Mach 5 Aviation.

If Quedzuweit happens to be at the airport on a given day, it’s not necessarily to fly. The self-described aviation history buff (and warbird fan) is honoring a long-standing tradition, earning her wings by working for them. That may mean washing airplanes, working in the office, keeping the hangar tidy, or volunteering to help organize a favorite event, nearby Sacramento’s California Capital Airshow.

Getting that first job at the airport didn’t even require aviation experience—just a genuine display of enthusiasm.

“I told them that I had not yet started training,” Quedzuweit recalled. “I just wanted to be around it.”

Being around it helped jump-start the learning process as she began soaking up all things aviation.

The pay-as-you-go method of acquiring a pilot certificate is a tradition, and a rite of passage, but it can be fraught with training interruptions. That’s a reality that Quedzuweit has experienced for herself since an introductory Experimental Aircraft Association Young Eagles flight in 2010 led to the decision to pursue pilot training and join EAA as a student member.

“Sometimes money runs out temporarily,” she said.

Scarce financial resources have added some pressure as she strives to complete training before an academic transfer to the east, and before expiration of her private pilot knowledge test next February.

So it was with both elation and relief that Quedzuweit learned that she had won the Richard J. Santori Memorial Scholarship, which she planned to travel to Palm Springs, Calif., to accept during AOPA’s 2012 Aviation Summit. The AOPA Flight Training Scholarship program awards $5,000 to a student pilot pursuing an FAA sport, recreational, or private pilot certificate. Scholarship recipients were chosen on merit, ability to set goals, and a demonstrated commitment to flight training.

Now she can get back to taking on such challenges such as the multiple tasks required in cross-country planning and performance calculations—tasks that she said have improved her math skills because of the practical application involved in applying them to a proposed flight.

And in a clear exhibit of the positive attitude that helps accomplish big goals, Quedzuweit noted that she doesn’t regard difficult challenges as setbacks—just factors that make her “more determined” to succeed.

Looking beyond the immediate project of earning her private pilot certificate, Quedzuweit sees an instrument rating and a commercial pilot certificate in her future “at the very least.”Aerobatic training is on her radar as well—not because she plans to become a performer, but because she believes the experience will make her “an all-around better pilot.”

Armed with that set of aeronautical skills, Quedzuweit would be able to work in missionary medical aid aviation, or fly support missions, possibly in war-torn areas or places without infrastructure or sufficient medical resources, following her dream of harnessing aviation to “make a positive difference in lives and communities.”