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Students fly high at Aviation Day

Westfield State freshman Hillary Driscoll practiced her flying on a simulation program under the instruction of Barnes Airport assistant manager Paul Sliwinski at Aviation Day. Reminder Publications photo by Katelyn Gendron
By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD He couldn't hide his excitement as he spoke about what it means to him to pilot an airplane.

Maximilian Robidoux is a junior at Westfield State College, majoring in Aviation Management with a concentration in flight. He was all too eager for the opportunity to tell all who would listen about the benefits of this program at the college's Aviation Day on Nov. 1.

"I've always known I wanted to fly," he said. Since his parents took him to his first air show at age two Robidoux said he's been in love with airplanes.

"I had 'Top Gun' memorized forward and back at age five," he said.

Robidoux noted the "personalized attention" given through the Five Star Flight Academy at Barnes Airport, which currently enrolls only half a dozen students.

In addition to taking classes at Westfield State, which require the students to learn the business and management aspects of the aviation industry, students are required to accrue flight time, which can grant them certification to fly private, commercial or airline transport aircrafts. The students fly a Cessna 172 or Skyhawk for their training.

Stephen Hayden, chief flight instructor at the Five Star Flight Academy, said he was eager to meet students at the college's Aviation Day in order to explain the abundant opportunities the aeronautics industry has to offer right now. He said that after Sept. 11, airlines laid off thousands of employees resulting in what is now a major shortage. He said this particular program makes for a "perfect degree."

Paul Sliwinski, assistant airport manager at Barnes Airport, said he agreed with Hayden when he said that "the possibilities are endless with an aviation degree."

"Not only are [the graduates] coming out with their pilot's license but they also have business and management knowledge," Sliwinski added. "The aerospace industry is huge. They will have no problem finding a job."

Robidoux said he is planning to use his degree to become a member of the Air Force. However, he added that if he did not gain acceptance into the Air Force he's "going to fly anyway."

Lydia Lucia, a sophomore at Westfield State College, who is also enrolled in the program said, unlike her peer, she will be looking to fly commuter jets upon receiving her diploma. Lucia added that upon learning of the college's Aviation Management Degree at an information day, she knew she had to enroll.

Another Westfield State freshman, Hillary Driscoll, who attended the Aviation Day, was not so sure about enrolling in the program, despite her success on the flight simulator.

With Sliwinski's help, the flight simulator allowed Driscoll and others to use a Microsoft flight simulation computer program and joystick to take off, fly and land a Skyhawk.

First students flew through yellow rings, which Sliwinski said would help them "visualize the correct glide slope for the aircraft." The joystick allowed them also to get a feel for the aircraft and teach them not to "overcorrect," he explained. Sliwinski added that new pilots often "overcorrect" because the aircraft has a "half second response time" after the pilot changes course.

"They say anybody can take off but it takes a lot of skill to land the aircraft," he explained to Driscoll.

"The simulation is a lot harder than it looks," she agreed. Overall Driscoll said that as an undeclared freshman she will eventually have to "weigh all of her options" when choosing her major, Aviation Management or not.

Hayden said he hoped to get as many students interested in the program as possible because of the great opportunities provided by the industry at this particular juncture.

"If they wanted to put 100 students in the program I would buy the airplanes," Hayden said with a smile.

For more information about the Five Star Flight Academy call 568-5800. For more information about the Aviation Management Degree at Westfield State College, call the Department of Economics and Management at 572-5694.