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Up, Up, and Away – Flying Fans

While many Fairfielders devote their leisure hours to golf, others spend their free time in the air. Whether it’s a fascination with aviation, a career or wanderlust, this group of pilots confirms that flying is a viable hobby.

People like John Shavinsky view aviation through professional and recreational lenses. A Fairfield resident since 2000, Shavinsky works at an investment firm specializing in aircraft leasing, but has held a pilot’s license for over two decades. Shavnsky’s career started at Boeing where he had the privilege of riding Air Force One during its testing phase and has met Neil Armstrong on several occasions.

While Shavinsky’s flying resume and reputation for mentoring young pilots is impressive, his passion is aerobatics. When he’s not performing in his two-seat Extra 300, John uses his six-seat Turbo Saratoga to transport his family—most notably to football games at his alma mater, Penn State.

Don Lord is a longtime Fairfielder, and the son of a paratrooper. His flight experience began in the late 1960s when he took lessons during college and got his private pilot’s license at Tweed Airport in Connecticut. Lord enjoyed many years flying, accruing numerous credentials and even air-commuting in his own Drummond Tiger between CT and South Carolina.

He points out that a private pilot’s license is merely the first step in becoming a seasoned pilot. Each additional area of expertise, called “ratings,” is another way to ensure safety and familiarize the pilot with unexpected conditions. He strongly recommends “instrument training,” which allows pilots to rely on the plane’s controls when visibility is poor and also gives them access to air traffic control. Both Lord and Shavinsky believe their aerobatics training proved valuable beyond competitions by teaching them how to avoid losing one’s bearings during difficult in-air situations. Many feel that this type of additional experience might have prevented John Kennedy, Jr.’s fatal plane crash.

Lord’s passion for aviation extends to building and flying remote control aircraft. He’s helped many Boy Scouts with the Flying Merit Badge and enjoys the activity with his grandchildren. His love of aviation is 100 percent genuine, but Lord admits that “nothing attracts more attention at a cocktail party than letting people know you have a pilot’s license!”

The aviation industry is currently clamoring for pilots, so it is exciting to see teenagers in our own backyard pursuing flying. Adam Jehle, a Junior at Fairfield Prep, is now working towards his goal of becoming a commercial airline pilot. He gains expertise from private lessons and a summer program through Embry Riddle in Arizona. Jehle is also Cadet with the Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary branch of the Air Force, founded in 1941, for students ages 12 to 21 to hone skills in leadership, first aid, aerodynamics, and aerospace.

Michael Dilley, a Fairfield native and freshman at Purdue University, embraces aviation from all angles. After he was mesmerized by a friend’s flight simulator, Dilley’s parents gifted him flying lessons. He described his first flight as “the best thing I’ve ever done—absolute heaven.” Now a student at Three Wing Aviation at Sikorsky Memorial Airport, Dilley is accruing hours towards his first solo flight with plans to continue in college.

Dilley’s decision to attend Purdue was influenced by the school’s flight opportunities and aerospace/aeronautical engineering programs. By pursuing both the academic and practical aspects of aviation, Dilley is wisely keeping his career options flexible.

According to Ken Smith, a pilot and general manager at Three Wing Aviation, “becoming a pilot means joining the aviation community–a supportive and generous group.” Smith’s clients often perform “Angel Flights”—transporting patients to medical facilities at no cost, or shuttling dogs to safe homes. Flying may seem extravagant, but enthusiasts feel it’s well worth the investment—from family adventures to community service—there are many ways to enjoy this pastime.

So you want a private pilot’s license?

›› Try a demo flight ($199 at most flight schools).

›› Meet the age requirements. Age 14 to take lessons and 17 to earn a private pilot’s license.

›› Interview instructors to find the right match. It’s important to feel comfortable with your teacher’s approach.

›› Take lessons consistently—weekly, if possible— to avoid reviewing previous material (Approximate hourly costs: $100— aircraft use, $50—instructor, $60—fuel)

›› Accrue a minimum of 40 hours of flying time (most require closer to 80) plus the necessary on-the-ground coursework to qualify for the license. Total Estimated cost: $8,000 – $18,000

›› Take a solo flight once cleared by your instructor.




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