Spreading their wings
When Mike Mihas was invited to address the members of St. John’s College’s (SJC) Flight Club, he thought he would speak to students who were a part of a club that engaged in flight simulation flying. He was pleasantly surprised to find himself interacting with students who were enthused about becoming a pilot, and who wanted to take it beyond the hobby of simulator flying.
“I was impressed with the club because I had no knowledge that something like that was at any school,” said Mihas, chief instructor at Nassau Aviation Ground School. “It was the first time I’d heard of a flight club at any school, and I was further impressed at the number of students and their involvement.”
Mihas along with David Rahming, a graduate of SJC and the Flight Club’s first president who took the private pilot ground course at Nassau Aviation Ground School, were invited to speak to students and share advice on avenues available to them if they choose to pursue a career in the aviation field, at the club’s most recent monthly meeting.
Mihas’ advice to the students was to always do copious research – no matter what career they’re interested in.
“Before starting any classes or flight school, do the research on what it takes to become a pilot to have an idea of what it involves. Sometimes people get themselves involved in stuff, and afterwards decide they don’t want to do it, so my advice is to do as much research before pursuing any career – not just a pilot. Make sure it is what you want to do in life,” said Mihas.
The most common question he received from the students was what it would take for them to become a pilot, which Mihas returned the conversation full circle to his advice on them doing research.
“It was an awesome interaction,” said the instructor. “I didn’t think the students would be that enthused. I thought it would have just been a club where they flew flight simulators, but these students were enthused about becoming a pilot and wanted to take it beyond the hobby of sim flying, and that’s what moved me most.”
The Flight Club is facilitated by Father Shazz Turnquest who teaches physics at the institution. The club offers young people who are interested in pursuing a career in aviation, especially those students who wish to be pilots, an opportunity to develop their skills using the flight simulator. The club members meet Mondays during their break to allow students to fly the simulator, making use of a gaming PC which they purchased, rudder pedals and flight yoke. Turnquest said its club members’ dream to purchase a fully functioning non-static flight simulator to enhance the realism of the flight experience. They also hope to build a full motion 3D simulator.
Turnquest said SJC prides itself on offering varying platforms for students to engage their learning in different ways.
“There is so much more to life than sitting and passing an examination,” said the physics teacher. “Young people live in a world of stimulation, and their interests have to be directed so that they can identify with a career that best fits their skillset in a tangible way. That is the role of school-based clubs, and I am proud to be able to offer this club to our students.”
The Flight Club has been in existence for five years.
Rahming, a private pilot currently building hours with Blessing Aviation, informed students at his high school alma mater of the quality instruction he received at Nassau Aviation Ground School which helped him pass his private pilot ground course license with a 93 percent grade.
A product of the SJC club, he told the club members that he appreciated the novelty of it at the time.
“It was fun, not like some of the other clubs. A lot of boys took interest in the club, because for them school was finally becoming relevant,” he recalled.
Turnquest said the first day he met Rahming in his physics class that Rahming indicated to him that he was going to be a pilot. He described his former student as a driven and dedicated man who demonstrated that he is a man of his word.
Mihas who is certified to teach theory pertaining to all pilot licenses, also offered to return to the club to teach one lesson from his official course to club members free of charge. He said his goal at Nassau Aviation Ground School, located at New Testament Baptist Church off Dolphin Drive, is to motivate young children to get involved in aviation, and to offer career options to young people outside of going to university or working a desk job.
The youngest student the school has taught to date has been 13 years of age; the oldest to this day has been 28 years old.
Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.