AOPA Project Pilot provides members with the tools to find viable flight-training candidates and support them as student pilots with the wisdom and encouragement of experienced pilots through mentoring. A student with a Project Pilot Mentor is three times more likely to successfully complete his or her training. This exciting program is available free to all AOPA members. You don’t have to be a CFI to participate. All it takes is someone who wants to share the joy of general aviation and a few minutes a week to help a student along.
I am the mentor for Bruce Stonge, a new pilot who has completed his private pilot and instrument rating while still in high school. Bruce developed an interest in aviation when he was fairly young. As a kid in my neighborhood, he would be involved with activities with my boys, and was exposed to airplanes during the time I was building a Lancair IV-P in my garage.
When Bruce was about to start his sophomore year in high school, he asked me about a career in aviation. I asked Bruce to come along for an EAA chapter meeting. We flew to the meeting (about 90 miles away) in my Mooney. I allowed Bruce to handle most of the flying duties on the flight home and he was hooked.
Bruce started instruction with Kubick Aviation on March 10, 2006, at Ford Airport in Iron Mountain, Michigan. He had the usual challenges, weather issues and multiple instructors, while working around job and family commitments. He soloed on June 22, 2006, and completed his private pilot checkride on December 19, 2006. He started on his instrument rating almost immediately. Bruce bought the home study materials and started working on his written during the early part of 2007. To this point, Bruce had covered most every expense of his training on his own from money he had saved over the years and from his present job.
An article in the local newspaper about Bruce obtaining his certificate convinced a relative from out of the area to arrange a scholarship for Bruce to attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University during the summer of 2007. Bruce came back with his instrument rating.
The rental costs were adding up, and Bruce wanted more flexibility to fly, so Chad Kubick, of Kubick Aviation, told Bruce about a nice Cherokee 160 on the field that had just been placed on the market. He was able to get a loan through AOPA to purchase this, his first airplane.
Bruce has since flown to Minneapolis (on an IFR flight plan, in his own plane) to tour the MSP ATC Facility. He is seriously considering a career in air traffic control. He will graduate from Kingsford High School this month. Bruce is an inspiration for anyone considering aviation as a career or a hobby. We are certainly proud of him.
Tom Sullivan, AOPA 1222863
Please send us your exciting and unusual student/mentor stories. We also welcome your photos. Although we can’t guarantee publication, we encourage you to e-mail photos to [email protected] or call 800-USA-AOPA (800-872-2672). For more information or to nominate someone for AOPA Project Pilot, please go to the Web site.