By: Pamela Cotant
Jeff Skiles, one of the cockpit crew who safely landed a disabled US Airways plane on the Hudson River three years ago, shared the exciting tale when he spoke to Edgewood High School students recently.
Skiles, who was first officer on the last leg of his first assignment in the Airbus A320 when it struck a flock of Canada geese Jan. 15, 2009, encouraged students in the Aviation I and II classes to consider a career in the field.
“It’s an exciting life,” he said. “I could have never chosen a better thing for my life.”
One of the students, Ava Janssen, 16, a junior at Verona Area High School who comes to Edgewood to learn about aviation, is looking at a career flying medical flight helicopters and found Skiles’ talk inspiring.
Ava, who lives down the street from a private runway, said she got hooked on flying when she got a ride in a private plane last summer. She said she likes the idea of a job where she is not restricted to an office.
“You can just go anywhere,” she said.
Another student, Anna Wall, 17, a senior at Edgewood, who wants to pursue a private pilot’s license, liked hearing that someone from around here “can have a big life and adventures.”
“To safely land a plane like that, in those circumstances, in that short amount of time. It’s amazing,” she said.
A native of Monona whose parents were pilots, Skiles started flying at age 16 and got his private pilot’s license on his 17th birthday, which is the earliest date possible under federal regulations.
Skiles, who now lives in Oregon, said he never wanted to become a chief pilot because it would limit his flexibility and ability to return to this area, where he runs a construction business, which he started after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
As current pilots start to retire, there will be a demand for pilots, said Skiles, who is co-chairman of the EAA Young Eagles program, which has chapters in Madison and Cottage Grove. The program gives interested youth ages 8 to 17 an opportunity to fly in a general aviation airplane.
Skiles has offered to speak each semester to the aviation classes at Edgewood – which allow students to take test flights – and talked to the students about the progression of his aviation career, his experiences and the advantages and disadvantages of the profession.
“As a part of the class syllabus, my goal is to introduce students to the diverse array of aviation-related careers, jobs and interests,” said Diane Ballweg, Edgewood aviation teacher and a pilot. “We don’t just learn the material in the private pilot textbook, but we discuss safety, personal minimums, life lessons and experience.”
Source: Wisconsin State Journal