Young pilots take flight

Quinn Greenheck, Austin Greenheck, Ty Nygaard and Kyle Schmaltz were taking photos of themselves in front of an aircraft recently to give as a thank you to their high school aviation teacher.

Seeing the four young people getting photos, it struck Minot pilot Warren Pietsch that he was watching the culmination of years of efforts by several Minot organizations to promote aviation and produce the next generation of pilots all from the local community and perhaps a model for other towns and cities.

Quinn, Austin and Ty just graduated from Minot High School and all have their pilot licenses. Kyle Schmaltz is still in high school and working toward getting his license.

Quinn, Austin and Kyle were in Aviation Technology, a new class at Minot High School-Magic City Campus this past school year. Taught by Meric Murphy, the class is an introduction to aviation. The classroom also has simulators for the students to use. The class will be taught again next year, plus Aviation II, an advanced class. Murphy will instruct both classes.

Austin, who plans to continue deeper into aviation, said the class was a good refresher and he learned a lot of new information. “I learned a lot from Meric. You never sit down for a conversation with an experienced pilot and not learn something through all the stories, whether it be on off hour or actually in the class talking with him it’s just phenomenal,” he said.

Kyle said the class is a good backbone for people who want to fly.

Ty started working on getting his pilot’s license last June. He got to know the other guys through school and taking flying lessons at Pietsch Aircraft.

Why did the four decide they wanted to become pilots.

“I first got the idea when I was I don’t even know what age but I remember walking into my grandpa’s (Kermit Hansen of Ryder) hangar,” said Ty. “I saw the plane in there and that just kind of sparked my interest. I finally made the dream come true earlier this year,” he said. Ty will be attending the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks where he will be majoring in mechanical engineering with an influence in aeronautics.

Quinn, who will be going to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., later this month, said, “I’ve always had a little nag for airplanes. We’d always go to Northern Neighbors Day at the air base and I would see the airplanes and (say) like, ‘Oh, that would be so cool to go flying.’ ” Quinn and Austin were in Civil Air Patrol and two summers ago began taking lessons at Pietsch Aircraft. “We started flying and we got our license just before senior year. I love it,” he said. At the Naval Academy he will major in mechanical engineering but hasn’t decided what he would like to do after graduating and going into the Navy.

Kyle remembers his early interest in flying. “Everybody says when they’re little how they want to be a pilot. I remember building hangars with cardboard boxes out of everything,” he said. He said he still has the planes. He talked to his dad about learning to fly and they wrote a financial plan. “We booked an introduction flight with my old flight instructor who has moved now,” he said. Kyle started taking lessons and met the Greenhecks who introduced him to Ty. “We’ve all be friends since,” he said.

“I never really thought of getting my license until we went to California for a vacation and we scheduled a biplane ride,” said Austin. He thought it was a lot of fun. He started taking flying lessons in Minot. “I got my license in the (Cessna) 150 out there,” he said. He is continuing with flying and pursuing commercial aviation. He has 140 hours and needs 250 hours of flying to obtain a commercial certificate.

“I’m really proud of you guys,” Pietsch told the four who were together at Pietsch Aircraft Thursday. “I think it’s really exciting to see four young men who are pursuing a dream and doing the job that you are doing. You’re working hard at it,” he said.

“I think you guys are a good cross-section of the future of this country, and it’s neat that it’s happening out of here,” he said, also adding, “I grew up in this building. I had cardboard boxes that were hangars that had “Pietsch Flying” on the front of them.” But, he told the four new pilots, “I used Crayons to write on them instead of Sharpies.”

(Prairie Profile is a weekly feature profiling interesting people in our region. We welcome suggestions from our readers. Call Editor Mike Sasser at 857-1959 or Regional Editor Eloise Ogden at 857-1944. Either can be reached at 1-800-735-3229. You also can send e-mail suggestions to