By Sandra Phillips
Flying is becoming a family tradition for Mark Vodry, son Chase and nephew Ryan Springer.
They’re taking off and landing in a Cessna 172 at Lake Norman Airport off Perth Road four or five times a week.
Mark, 52, and a US Airways pilot, is training Chase, 20, and Ryan, 21. Chase plans to become an air traffic controller; Ryan wants to fly commercial planes. Eventually, Ryan may acquire a helicopter pilot’s license. Obtaining a private pilot’s license is the first step.
Like Chase and Ryan, Mark caught the flying bug early. He earned his private pilot’s license at age 18 during a summer break from college. By the following summer, he had enough credits to instruct students.
Teaching Chase and Ryan to fly has been a different venture. “In the beginning, I was their age and teaching students,” said Mark. “Now, I’ve got a lot more life experiences.”
Mark takes the experiences and safety procedures he has learned as a commercial pilot and applies them to situations in small airplanes. His goal is not to establish a fast -track training program. Instead, Mark wants Chase and Ryan to develop the skills he believes they need.
Their next hurdle will be solo flights. “The more skills they have before they solo, the better it’s going to be for them and me,” said Mark.
Chase and Ryan are familiar with their checklists and the multiple times they must inspect instruments. “We have to check instruments when we’re rolling down the runaway at full throttle prior to takeoff,” said Chase.
That maneuver can be a little tricky when they’re trying to keep the plane on the center line.
Flying is more technical than the pair expected. “Five tasks will creep up in no time if you’re not aware,” said Ryan.
“You have to keep your cool about it and do it correctly,” said Chase.
When the pair land, they’re ready to fly again. “The end of the hour comes too fast,” said Ryan.
After landing, the cousins critique their flights and think of ways to improve. Both admit they were a little nervous or had butterflies the first time they performed a landing. They’re more relaxed now. “Those butterflies went out the window the first time I landed,” said Ryan.
“Now I know more what I‘m doing,” said Chase. Although he has been a passenger on many commercial flights, this is Chase’s first exposure to small planes. He’s learned that flying a small aircraft is “way more complicated and technical” than he expected.
By January, Chase, a student at Mitchell Community College, will be enrolled at the Community College of Beaver County in Pittsburgh. Chase will work toward certification as an air traffic controller. The school specializes in aviation science.
Ryan will continue to study with his uncle. He will need an additional 200 hours of instruction to become a commercial pilot. At that point, Ryan can become an instructor. “He can get paid for flying, instead of paying to fly,” said Mark.
Learning to fly can be an expensive undertaking. Belonging to a club helps defray costs. Both families are members of NC 86. The flying club was formed in 1987 and named for a grass strip off Langtree Road where planes landed and took off. Today, two Cessna 172s owned by the club are tethered at Lake Norman Airport.
Flying is fun, “and I’ve never come to a point yet where I’ve decided I want to do anything else,” said Ryan.
“Flying is like a different experience and you can’t get this experience doing anything else,” said Chase who thinks the views are “cool.”
Mark agrees. He’s thankful for “amazing things” he’s seen like – watching Haley’s Comet travel over the North Atlantic.
In their spare time, the pair has other interests. Chase, a competitive golfer, volunteers with the Youth Golf Foundation at the Mooresville Golf Course.
Ryan, who moved to Mooresville, from Kansas City, Mo., keeps in touch with friends via computer and x-Box. When he receives his private pilot’s license, he plans to fly one of the Cessnas home and show it off. “Not too many 21-year-olds can say they partially own a plane,” he said.