By Hasti Ghasemi Vaghar, Current Staff
Two years ago, Michael Blaskowski had an idea that would literally take off.
Blaskowski, a technology teacher at West Bend East High School, spent part of the COVID-19 lockdown thinking about earning a pilot’s license. A year later, he actually started the process. On July 12, 2021, Blaskowski headed to West Bend Air Inc. to complete his private pilot certification. Since then he has flown to different cities across Wisconsin.
Blaskowski always had an interest in flying planes. When he was younger, he participated in Young Eagles, a program created by the Experimental Aircraft Association that provides the opportunity for children ages 8-17 to experience a flight in an airplane and learn about it.
During the pandemic, Blaskowski, like any other teacher at the time, was stuck at home, teaching his students virtually. After staying at home for months, he had wanted to go out and do something new. Therefore, when he came across a random aviation video online, he decided to try it.
Blaskowski met with an instructor in May 2020 at the West Bend Airport to discuss the criteria for becoming a certified pilot. He did a discovery flight, which allows individuals to fly an airplane on the first day with an instructor. But then he pushed the idea back for a year, and ultimately decided to work toward his pilot certificate in April 2021.
“If you’re waiting for the right time to get (the license), there is none,” Blaskowski said. “There is no good spot to start off. You just gotta do it.”
In order to become a certified private pilot, one must be at least 17 years old and pass a written test with a score of 70% or higher. In addition to taking a written exam, one must also pass a practical exam, which includes an oral exam that tests knowledge of areas of operations and a second part that assesses the ability to perform tasks such as landings, take-offs, navigation, and emergency procedures.
Applicants must also provide a medical certification, complete a ground instruction program, and complete at least 40 hours of flight time. The average time spent flying before the test is around 65 hours. Blaskowski got his certificate in under three months, after spending three days a week flying for 47 hours.
“It really depends on how fast you get it,” Blaskowski said.
Some of the long distances that he has traveled are West Bend to Green Bay and Janesville. This summer he plans to visit his hometown, Cumberland, in northern Wisconsin, which would cover 300 miles and would be the furthest distance he has flown a plane.
As for the future, once getting a private pilot license, there are small subcategories for which one can earn advanced certification. One of these subcategories is instrument rating, which would allow a private pilot to fly through clouds, fog and bad weather. Other subcategories that one could get a certification in include the ability to fly at high altitudes, fly a high-performance plane, and fly a complex plane with multiple engines.
Although one can go through the commercial path, which includes being an airport instructor or obtaining a commercial pilot license, this is not something that currently interests Blaskowski.
He has been documenting his adventures as an amateur pilot with videos on a YouTube channel called FlightMike.
(Top image: Michael Blaskowski returns to West Bend from Green Bay. Photos courtesy of Blaskowski.)