17-Year-Old’s Dreams Take Flight

Sydney Schroeder, Class of 2022, at Advanced Air in Council Bluffs (first picture) and Tac Air in Omaha by photographer Brad Higgins (second picture).

By J1 Reporter Chioma Aloziem

    She balances straight A’s while running cross country, shooting trap, coaching figure skating and she is working toward her pilot’s license. Junior Sydney Schroeder does this all and more.

             During quarantine, Schroeder decided to do some research on her family. She found out that her grandpa went through the Spring Hill ROTC program from 1951-1955 for the duration of the Korean War. In 1958 he obtained his private pilots license and joined the National Guard. He later was commissioned at Fort Benning GA as a paratrooper.

“My dream is to become a Fighter Pilot through the Air Force Academy and travel the world,” Schroeder said. “One of my lifetime goals is to fly like my grandpa.” Her vision inspired her to be the first female pilot in her family thus commencing her first flight at Fremont Aviation. After a few hours of instruction it soon became apparent that Schroeder needed a different place to train. With only one instructor and two aircrafts, Schroeder needed an airport with more availability to her busy schedule. She found that Advanced Air in Council Bluffs had more availability because the airport has 24 aircrafts and 26 instructors. 

                Before getting in the air, Sydney had to get her pilot physical and learn about the basics of a plane. She doesn’t always fly the same plane, she uses whatever aircraft Advanced Air has available. She normally flies a high wing aircraft called a Cessna 172. Before take off, it is required to follow a 15 minutes pre-flight checklist. The first thing Schroeder does is make sure there isn’t a crack in the propeller. If she runs her hand down the propeller and finds a crack big enough to slice her hand open then she can’t fly. Next, she checks the lights on both sides of the plane. She then checks the aileron and elevator by moving them up and down. Finally, she inspects the oil and gas. She always remembers to initially drain the gas to check for water within the engine. If water is in an aircraft’s engine during flight, there is a possibility of an explosion or fire. 

              To get her private pilot’s license, she has to get a minimum of 40 hours in the air. The national average to obtaining the license is around 70 hours though because all of the training required typically takes more time than the minimum amount. As of right now, she has only 14 hours and plans to get her license by the end of her senior year. After she obtains her license, her goal is to apply to the Air Force Academy. She doesn’t have to go to the Air Force Academy to become a fighter pilot, but she would like to. The process of applying can take up to a year with all of the requirements and Schroeder has begun this process. If she doesn’t get into the academy she would love to fly for a commercial airline.

          Schroeder’s advice to young aspiring pilots is that flying takes practice and time. The first time she flew, she said, “I had complete fear and happiness. My knuckles were white, and I didn’t know any basic controls of an airplane.” As she continued to fly, she progressively learned the controls and flew better. She still has bad days but she doesn’t let that stop her from achieving her dream. 

        If you or anyone you know want to become a pilot you can go to your local airports online site. You can either talk to them on the phone or meet with them in person for a consultation. The average cost is between $100 and $200 per lesson. Since pilots are predominantly male, airports are trying to acquire more female pilots by giving scholarships and discounts.

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