October 9, 2012
By Dan Namowitz
Waner Del Rosario’s older sister likes to tell him that the family knew he wanted to fly before he could walk.
Now the information technology professional from Fort Myers, Fla., is living up to the lore as a student pilot and active flying club member who also runs a website about aviation titled Born Without Wings (but destined to fly).
Active since January in the Fort Myers Flying Club (founded in 1959 and once known as the Cub Club, although currently Cub-less) Del Rosario’s frequent attendance as a guest at directors’ meetings, and his all-around enthusiasm, are pointing in the direction of his becoming a candidate for the club’s governing board. In fact, you could say that he is already a declared candidate.
For Del Rosario, 25, his IT work in support of his county’s commissioners, and aviation, have something important in common: They both bring out the teacher in him. And although at first it was the goal of a seat in an airliner’s cockpit that drew him into aviation, that has changed. Now he sees himself teaching others to fly.
In either case, a shortage of funds threatened to put his flight training project on hold not too long after his April 2012 solo in a Cessna 172. Del Rosario recently learned that he was the winner of the ASA Flight Training Scholarship, which he 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.
On hearing the good news, Del Rosario called up his flight instructor, Kenneth Bentley, and they agreed that as soon as Del Rosario returns from the trip to California, it’s time to get back in the air.
Not that Del Rosario ever drifted too far from aviation during the interim. There were those flying club board meetings, and Del Rosario often monitors local air traffic control frequencies via the Internet (as you would expect) or smartphone. Often he shows up at the airport with a complete picture of the local traffic situation.
Del Rosario has taken on an informal role as a flying club promoter, and is “trying to recruit club members left and right,” he said.
The very model of a prime candidate for a leadership role, he has studied a recent club survey seeking input on what members want from their organization, noting that the constituency seems to favor more seminars and instructional opportunities.
Like most private pilots-to-be, Del Rosario has a list of prospective passengers—and in his case, it’s about 30 names long right now.
That may sound like a lot of names until you remind yourself that this is a pilot with an avowed goal of exposing as many people as possible—of all ages—to general aviation. Del Rosario also has some personal trips planned for after the checkride. Key West is on that agenda—and as a Florida pilot, Del Rosario is already thinking about the tried-and-true trek to the Bahamas that his location makes so inviting. He has also made some contacts with the Civil Air Patrol.
Some student pilots encounter adversity of an unexpected nature. Shortly after beginning training, Del Rosario discovered that he was prone to occasional airsickness. That was a setback, but he soon came to realize that the problem seemed to arise when he felt anxious or uncertain of his command of the aircraft. As he gained some certainty about his ability to keep things under control, the problem disappeared.
“I haven’t been airsick once since I realized that it was all about confidence,” he said.
Here’s something that will strike a familiar chord with anyone who flies: As Del Rosario describes his adventure in aviation to others, many of the listeners confide that they, too, would love to learn how to fly, and they express surprise at how accessible aviation seems to be.
Del Rosario is quick to encourage that kind of thinking.
“There is nothing stopping you,” he tells them. “You can absolutely do it.”
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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