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Students gain aviation insights at Fly-ND Career Expo

Students gain new insights into aviation

Jill Schramm/MDN Donna Daniels, left, with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University shares information about the school with students Terrence Andre San Gabriel, center, and Noah Rose, right, both of Bismarck, at the Fly-ND Career Expo in Minot Wednesday.

Young people eyeing aviation careers received both information and inspiration at a Fly-ND Career Expo hosted by the North Dakota Aviation Association at Dakota Territory Air Museum Wednesday.

Jalynn Kendall, a senior at Minot High School who works at the museum and plans to pursue a career as a pilot, said she gleaned valuation information from the expo.

“What I found valuable is actually getting to see the different opportunities and different paths you can take,” she said. “You can definitely see what’s best for you.”

The expo was the second held in North Dakota. The first had been held in Fargo. Mike McHugh, aviation education coordinator with the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission said the intent is to rotate an annual event between Fargo and Minot going forward.

“We are trying to expose them to all the areas of aviation,” McHugh said. “We are just trying to show them all the different opportunities.”

JIll Schramm/MDN Participants attending the Fly-ND Career Expo at Dakota Territory Air Museum listen to a speaker during the event Wednesday.

Wednesday’s event drew about 175 students from nearly a dozen schools across western North Dakota, including large numbers from aviation programs in the Minot, Bismarck and Williston school systems.

The program included speakers who work in different areas of aviation and exhibitors ranging from colleges to aviation employers. There were 10 $1,000 scholarships given away.

Kendall said her interest in aviation stems from attending an Air Force air show, which led her to Minot High’s aviation program. After taking the two years offered in the program, she sought a way to stay involved and was invited to become an instructor’s assistant in the program. The program gave her a leg up toward earning her pilot’s license, too.

“I’m actually almost done with my private pilot (license) so I just need to do one more solo cross-country and then do my written,” she said.

Burke Rutten, a senior in the aviation program at Minot High, earned his private pilot’s license last Saturday. He follows in the steps of his grandfather and father, who are both private pilots. He said he didn’t come to the expo looking at aviation as a career but he was inspired in hearing about the level of opportunities in the field, even for young people.

Jill Schramm/MDN Students Logan Morrison, left, and Savanna Baranko, center, of Dickinson, stop by the Bismarck Aero Center booth staffed by Eden West, right, at the Fly-ND Career Expo in Minot Wednesday.

Because young people are allowed under federal rules to solo once they reach age 16 and become private pilots at age 17, they can jumpstart their training and find good positions in the industry early in their careers, said Hudson Coleman, a flight instructor at Minot Aero Center.

One of his students, Titus Lee, last week became the first from Williston High School to fly solo while still enrolled in the school’s aviation program.

Lee, a senior, said he’s been hooked on aviation since his first year in the program. When his instructor took him on a flight, that sealed the deal.

“It was just about the coolest thing I think I’ve ever done,” he said. “After that I was a lot more dedicated and serious in the class. At the end of the year, my instructor started discussing with my parents actually pursuing flight lessons.”

Lee said he wants to become a corporate pilot, flying for companies or charters. He found inspiration toward that career at the expo.

“I really look up to and I’m impressed by the young pilots, and then simultaneously those older gentlemen like Warren Pietsch who pushed the envelope in every aspect — the people that really aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and put in the work nobody else will,” he said. “It’s nice seeing that people that put in the work are able to actually make it as far as they have. That’s really motivational for me.”

Terrence Andre San Gabriel, a junior at Century High in Bismarck, said he was drawn to the different college and business booths at the expo and was encouraged to learn there are businesses with entry-level jobs open to students like himself who are looking for aviation experiences.

San Gabriel is working toward a pilot’s license, which is separate from his longer term goal to pursue an engineering degree. However, he came away from the expo with the novel idea of possibly becoming a test pilot — an option merging both his interests.

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