Bryan Plucknett knew in high school that he wanted to be a pilot.
While a junior at Northwestern High School in Albion, Pa., Plucknett attended Aero Camp at North Coast Flight School, where he caught the flying bug.
“I’ve always liked planes – especially World War II planes,” he said. “I figured I’d give it a try and see how it goes.
Plucknett, who launched his two-year pilot-education program through North Coast and the Porreco College of Edinboro University right after high school, is already getting noticed. During this past semester, he became the first student in the Porreco College and FAA-certified North Coast Flight School dual program to earn his private pilot license.
“These kids learn literally every aspect of aviation,” said Gregory Hayes, owner of the Erie-based flight school located within the Erie International Airport. “(Plucknett) has just been exceptional. He’s doing very well at this.”
At Porreco College, Plucknett is enrolled in the Associate of Applied Science – Aeronautical Science program. The program prepares graduates to immediately pursue a career as a commercial pilot, equipping them with the required knowledge in mathematics, physics, communications and aeronautics.
In addition to his flight-school training, Plucknett said that he plans to complete courses in microeconomics, business in society, trigonometry and meteorology. Hayes said much of the pilot curriculum features STEM-based academics – in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“It definitely helps me with my critical-thinking skills and how I can organize my school work and flying time,” Plucknett said of his Porreco College courses.
Graduates from the AAS – Aeronautical Science program can pursue careers in aviation such as non-passenger commercial pilot, private charter pilot, flight instructor or other flight-training related careers.
Plucknett said his initial goal was to become an airline pilot. Through the AAS program, he also considered becoming a flight instructor or completing a four-year Edinboro University degree and advancing as an officer in the U.S. Air Force.
Pilot certification training is much more than flying a plane, Hayes said. The FAA mandates that student pilots complete a minimum of 40 hours of flight time. Additionally, students must take an online pilot exam and, in some cases, an oral exam that lasts between three and five hours.
“You have to be pretty dedicated. No one should start (the pilot program) thinking it’s just going to be fun,” Hayes said. “It’s a lot of work.”
At first, Plucknett’s parents were somewhat reluctant for him to fly solo. Now that he has filled requirements to fly for three hours a day, twice a week, Plucknett said his parents have grown comfortable with him behind the wheel – “yoke” in aeronautical terms) – of an airplane.
“I think now they’d like to fly with me,” he said.
Up next for Plucknett and his classmates is training with flight instruments in the airplane cockpit, which can help dictate the flight’s altitude, direction and speed. This fall, if all goes as planned, Plucknett will be taking his commercial pilot exam.
For more information about the AAS – Aeronautical Science program, and other offerings at the Porreco College of Edinboro University, visit Porreco.Edinboro.edu.