Up in the air: Senior works to obtain pilot license, pursue career in aviation

Nathan Johanson

Looking out the window, there’s nothing but sky and clouds for miles and miles. With nothing but the roar of the engine to keep you company, there is a peaceful solitude that can be found while flying. Though senior Jake Fattig started taking pilot lessons when he was 15-years-old, he’s been interested in planes since junior high and plans to spend the rest of his life miles above the ground. 

“When I was in sixth grade, I started doing research on planes, and then I came across the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Young Eagles Organization,” Jake said. “There was a guy at Coulter Airfield who took me up for a discovery flight and everything fell into place from there.”

Although Jake has aviation in his blood as both his uncle and cousin are pilots his mother does not feel as comfortable seeing her son in the air.

“My parents want me to look at my options, even when I’m in college, but they’re supportive of me becoming a pilot,” Jake said. “However, mom gets nervous when I fly because of the stories she hears about plane crashes, but they don’t affect me because of the ratio of plane crashes to car crashes.”

Jake has never had an issue with the safety side of flying and understands that outside of the takeoff and landing, flying is fairly safe.

“I wasn’t scared the first time I flew,” Jake said. “I didn’t realize that once you’re in the air, there’s not much that can go wrong. It’s crazy when you look on an aviation map and it shows all these lines and planes in the sky, but you don’t see anybody up there.”

Even though flying does not scare Jake, he sometimes gets a queasy feeling.

“All the flying I have done has been in a small plane,” Jake said. “The wind can push the plane around a lot because of how small the plane is. I don’t usually have to take motion sickness pills but sometimes I will have to take some because I get nauseous.”

Though Jake does not have his official pilot’s license yet, he is certified to fly with someone who does, and he plans to complete the process to get his license next year in college. He hopes to attend Embry-Riddle, Kansas State, or Florida Tech, all of which have elite flying programs.

“I have visited Kansas State and it was really nice,” Jake said “Unlike Florida Techa and Embry-Riddle, Kansas State has athletics programs and other typical college activities.”

Jake still is not sure where he plans to attend as even Kansas State has its drawbacks.

“Kansas State’s campus for the pilot program is separate from the main campus which makes it a little weird,” Jake said. “Only about six hundred students attend that college campus whereas Embry-Riddle and Florida Tech are much larger schools.”

After graduating from college, Jake plans to pursue a career with one of the major airline companies to gain experience before specializing.

“One pilot said that he liked flying cargo because cargo doesn’t complain, so I think my long-term goal is to fly cargo,” Jake said. “Most pilots start out flying passengers and as time goes on, new opportunities pop up and they can transition to cargo.”

There are many perks that come along with being a pilot that Jake plans on eventually using and enjoying all aspects of the job.

“I see the traveling aspect as a huge plus when it comes to becoming a pilot,” Jake said. “Eventually, I’d like to become an international pilot and start traveling the globe. A pilot can’t travel for a certain amount of time in between flights, so he gets to stay with the airline covering the cost of lodging and food.” 

Beyond the traveling and other material benefits, Jake appreciates the adventure of flying.

“Even though you’re under some restrictions legally when flying, you kind of feel like you can go anywhere,” Jake said. “The view from the cockpit is a lot better than in a car on a road, and you don’t ever really have to worry about coming across anybody else in the sky.”