January 7, 2014
By Benét J. Wilson
Ryan McFarland, winner of the 2013 Lou Torres Flight Training Scholarship, passed his private pilot checkride Dec. 27. McFarland, 29, has been an AOPA member since August 2013.
McFarland has wanted to fly since he was 14 years old. “What really made me want to fly was when I did a ridealong with an air medical helicopter near where I grew up. And a family friend took me up in his airplane,” he said.
He began taking flight lessons in July 2012 at Huffman Aviation, based at Spinks Airport in Fort Worth, Texas. “In January 2013, I got sick had to have a surgical procedure. All the money I had saved for flight training had to go to that,” said McFarland. “I had already taken the written test that summer, so I didn’t want to have to go back to ground school and repay for flight training.”
So he searched for options, including scholarships and grants. “Jake Huffman, the owner of Huffman Aviation, told me about the AOPA scholarship. He thought it would be a good fit for me,” said McFarland.
McFarland was one of eight recipients of the AOPA Flight Training scholarships. “I started training hard in October, and passed my checkride in December,” he said.
Although McFarland feels he’s too old to be a commercial airline pilot, he would like to get into an aviation career. “I have a bachelor’s degree in music, and I have technical skills in audio and video production,” he said. “I’d like produce flight training videos or work for aviation-related television shows like `The Aviators’ or ‘The Flightline.’”
McFarland offers advice for those who want to apply for the AOP Flight Training scholarships. “When I originally applied, I thought I had a one in a million chance. So when I won, I felt like I had won the lottery,” he said. “I’d say don’t give up. If you don’t win, then keep applying for this and other scholarships. Be persistent.”
He also encouraged potential applicants to make sure they have a strong general aviation background. “You want to show that you’re serious about getting your certificate. You also want to show that you will do something that promotes general aviation, not just yourself,” he said. “Once I get more hours, I want to fly for Angel Flight because they helped my mom when she was sick.”
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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