MANITOWOC – Sherwood Williams didn’t start flying until he turned 50. A quarter-century later, he probably wonders what took him so long to experience the fun of flight.
Williams, 76, is the owner of CAVU Flight academy, which he started in 1998 and now includes two schools, one in Green Bay and a new one at the Manitowoc County Airport.
His website declares, “The dream to ‘fly like a bird’ is one dreamt by many — to feel the freedom, experience the view from the sky, shed the traveling constraints of ground-based transportation.”
Greg Langman from Manitowoc began taking flying lessons in June 2013 earned his private pilot’s license in November with Williams serving as his Federal Aviation Authority checkoff examiner.
“I just like to fly … I’ll fly in circles around the airport,” said Langman. The new pilot has limited his flights to rented single-engine aircraft taking to the skies around the Midwest on brief day trips with his wife and their daughter, about to turn 2.
“I’d like to fly to Las Vegas for a convention I attend for work,” said Langman, believing it would be far more fun than driving to Milwaukee and catching a commercial flight to Nevada.
A salesman at Brown’s of Two Rivers, a vehicle parts and accessories firm, Langman said studying for the oral test to get his license was challenging including becoming conversant with some 1,500 pages of rules governing general aviation aircraft flying.
“We focus on safety,” said Williams, whose Manitowoc flight school benefits from two experienced instructors, Jim Wheeler and Leon Sigman. Last year they each were honored with the Wright Brothers Award in recognition of 50 years of safety in aviation.
“Most of our students have a healthy fear of flying, so we work with our students to overcome that,” said Williams, noting 17 is the youngest age for one to earn their private pilot’s license with 78 the age of his oldest student.
CAVU stands for “ceiling and visibility unlimited” and instruction from the company can be the catalyst for a career in aviation, not just pleasure flying.
Sigman and Wheeler said their lessons can be the kickstart to students eventually serving as pilots in 747 jumbo jets circumnavigating the globe — after all, most all of them got their start behind the controls of single engine planes like the Savage and Cessna 172 at the airport off Menasha Avenue on the city’s north side.
“Seeing the lights go on for a student … when they start to really catch on,” was Sigman’s answer to the enjoyment he derives from serving as a flight instructor.
Wheeler agrees and adds the flight school is “helping to keep this airport viable and an important part of the community.”
CAVU is associated with Utah Valley University, which offers associate and bachelor’s degrees in Aviation Science.
It offers an “introductory discovery flight” for $99 for those considering flight instruction or just want to learn a little more about flying. For $219, an intermediate discovery flight gives participants a chance to plan their own flight experience including 45 minutes of ground instruction and flight planning, flying the 1-hour plan and finishing with review.
A ballpark figure for investment to earn one’s private pilot license would be around $8,000 or more to cover 20 to 30 hours of ground-based instruction, and about 50 hours of flight training including fuel costs.
Langman has his sights set on earning his instrument rating. “Then I could fly on cloudy, rainy days with a low ceiling …not just sunny afternoons,” he said.
A prominent quotation on the CAVU website is attributed to a Renaissance-era inventor who died in 1519 and conceptualized flying machines but never went up in one:
“For once you have tasted flight, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been and there you will long to return.” — Leonardo da Vinci