Soaring through Senior Year

Natalie Lindmark

Most high school seniors are currently caught up in a whirlwind of big decisions, anticipation and being able to have one last time for all high school shenanigans. However, one senior has had a different focus in mind. Senior Jackson Schaffer is devoting his senior year to getting his pilot’s license.
After turning eighteen, Schaffer decided to pursue his lifelong interest in flying that started as a kid.
“Flying has always been something that I wanted to do. When I was a kid and Air Force or military planes would fly over, I would freak out,” Schaffer said. “My grandfather was in the Air Force and he’s been a big influence on me. He’s the whole reason I’m getting my private pilot license now because I’m also going to go to the Air Force after college.”
Schaffer plans to attend Oklahoma State University and participate in their flying program, but he has some preparation to do before he leaves and his career quite literally takes off.
“The specifications for a private pilot license is 40 hours of flight time and 20 hours of ground school,” Schaffer said. “I try and fly as much as possible and schedule as many fights as I can. Usually about an hour a day is what I’m shooting for. I’ve been flying like every day for the past couple weeks.” “[Training has been tough with not only having to go to school but playing sports and [having other commitments in the community. It’s a lot of hard work and a lot of late nights studying.
While it is a struggle balancing flying with the other aspects of his life, Schaffer said he realizes that flying isn’t always fun and games.
“It’s not just like driving a car. You’re constantly calculating where you are, what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. It’s a lot of numbers and I’ve never been really good at math,” Schaffer said. “Calculating air speeds by hand and directions using old paper maps, there’s a lot of new technology that we get to use but you got to learn the old stuff first. That’s probably been the biggest challenge.”
As busy as Schaffer’s senior year has been, he said he wouldn’t trade this experience and feeling of flying for the world.
“The best part is absolutely just that feeling you get right when the wheels leave the ground. I remember my very first flight that I was the pilot in command, right when the wheels left the ground I remember freaking out and getting really scared that I was in command of this plane. I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God, this isn’t what I want to do.’ Then once we got off the ground, everything was so calm and it was one of the greatest feelings of my whole life.”