Student Spotlight: Katie Smith, Pilot-in-Training


Senior Katie Smith is on her way to attaining a private pilot’s license.

By: Graphics Editor Shirby Wang


While most students focus on getting their driver’s license, Senior Katie Smith is looking to the sky and is in the process of attaining a private pilot’s license. The Smoke Signal takes this chance to gain insight into her unique experience.


Smoke Signal: What is your inspiration to begin getting your license?

Katie Smith: My great uncle who lives in Missouri was a pilot for the Korean War. When we went to visit, my uncle took me and my dad on a flight, which was really fun. My dad got certified and took me out on flights, too. As I got more experienced, I got more into it.


SS: Can you tell us about the planes you fly?

KS: Usually, I fly my own plane, a Cessna 172. The code on its tail is 8561U. While it’s in repair, we rent a Cessna 162, which is basically the sports car of the sky. My first flight was on a Citabria.


SS: Can you describe the process?

KS: First I had to take ground school, which involves a written exam. Then, I had flight lessons with an assigned instructor. I then took solo lessons, which involves three take offs and landings at an airport. Next, I have to fly cross country flights, one short and one long, which is 50 nautical miles out. Finally, I have to fly for a maximum of three hours while taking an oral exam where I’m asked questions about the flight. I have to be endorsed by the instructor for each step.


SS: How far along are you?

KS: I actually started by applying to a scholarship. I was chosen as one of three winners in the area for a $3000 scholarship. I used it for ground school, which used the entire scholarship. I only have the long cross country flight and the oral exam left.


SS: Can you tell us any anecdotes from your flying experience?

KS: My dad and I do the Hayward Air Rally, which is a flight from Hayward to the Ben, Oregon, which is a big flight that takes the whole day. Along the way, we take pictures of checkpoints. One time, when my dad was flying, we couldn’t find a checkpoint so we kept circling around. We circled around so much the plane became vertical for five minutes, which was like a rollercoaster!

One time, I was landing in Tracy, which has an airport without a tower so we had to call out everything. It was really windy so when I was landing, my plane suddenly jerked to the side of the runway. I had to control the plane while it was super bumpy and scary.


SS: What do you hope to accomplish in the future with your license?

KS: I’m sort of iffy, but it’d be great if I could just fly for fun once in a while. I definitely don’t want a career as an airline pilot because the pay is horrible for the first 15 years. I might want to become a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) to teach others to fly. This does take a lot of work, and I’d have to go to aviation school. Also, doing aerobatics and doing flips in the air would be really fun and is my dream job.

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