August 8, 2013
By Benét J. Wilson
Sixteen years to the day after getting his student pilot certificate, Glen Wenzel, recipient of the Erral Lea Plymate Memorial Scholarship in 2012, passed his private pilot checkride July 31.
Wenzel was one of three recipients of $5,000 flight training scholarships at Sun 'n Fun in 2012. He is a career firefighter in Winston-Salem, N.C. His father was a pilot, and he has been around aviation his whole life, taking his first flight at age four.
An AOPA member since 2010, Wenzel said that learning to fly has been a lifelong goal. “I started my formal training in the late 1990s. But I wound up getting away from it because it became too expensive and there just wasn’t enough time to do it,” he recalled. “Life got in the way, but the desire was always there.”
When his father died three years ago in a helicopter accident, Wenzel inherited his Cessna 150. “That made it easier to do my training, despite the unfortunate circumstances,” he said. “Inheriting his plane made it even more important to finish my flight training.”
Wenzel said the Plymate scholarship was a huge help. “When I won, at first I didn’t believe it. It was a great feeling, and it helped me finish my training.”
Looking ahead, Wenzel would like to work on his instrument and other ratings. “I won’t change careers, since I’ve been with the fire department for 13 years. But many firefighters have side jobs,” he said. “I’d like to use my pilot license as a side job. But ideally, I’d love to combine my careers and fly for a fire department. That would be my ideal job.”
Wenzel’s advice for those still in flight training is to not give up on it. “Even if it takes a long time, don’t give up. I got into flying when I was younger, then wound up with a career change. I got married, and then the money wasn’t there to do it, and put it on the back burner,” he said. “But in the past few years, it became more feasible. “If things get tough, take a break then get back at it. Don’t give up.”
AOPA eNewsletter and Social Media Editor Benét J. Wilson joined AOPA in 2011. She is working on her private pilot certificate.
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