Eddie DiBlasi creates model planes, attends flight school and strives for his pilot’s license
“Fly the plane,” he thinks to himself, “ just fly the plane. If anything goes wrong or I get lost, just remember to fly the plane.”
The plug door shuts tightly, sealing the pilot in his flight deck. He places the headset on his head, and a microphone extends into the open space.
The pilot hears mixed murmurs of instruction through the headset, but he is concentrated on getting acquainted with the vast array of buttons on the control panel and maintaining his focus on the endless expanse of air that will soon be in front of him. He takes a deep breath and places his hands on the steering wheel.
“Oakland Tower, United 135 ready for takeoff IFR, runway two-niner.”
The plane is in the air.
“[When I’m flying a plane], the aircraft is so small that most motions I make with the controls feel like an extension of myself,” senior Eddie DiBlasi said.
Eddie first embarked on his journey to obtain a private pilot’s license last summer.
“I am interested in aviation because I’ve just always loved the ability to get away from the Earth and the gracefulness that is present in flying,” Eddie said, smiling. “I’ve always been interested in aviation, but one of the first times I experienced it in depth was in a summer camp in 2013, where I got to fly a little bit and learn about various aviation careers. That was incredible, it was kind of an unusual experience as flying
goes because it was all set up as a teaching experience for new pilots.” Eddie’s aviation training is held at the Crystal Airport through Thunderbird Academy, which operates under part 141 regulations. This means that the school focuses on students who see aviation as a serious future and is therefore more rigorous and challenging. Under these conditions, it is possible to achieve a pilot’s license in less time: 35 hours instead of 40 hours as a minimum.
Eddie is already rounding the corner into obtaining a private pilot’s license.
“Experience is measured in hours, and I’ve flown 30 hours,” Eddie said. “That is roughly halfway to the lowest rating of a pilot.”
Becoming a licensed pilot, however, is more than just getting the hours. It is a process that requires the cultivation of a very specific skill set.
“Stage one is basically getting the student familiar with the aircraft and procedures, including emergency recovery techniques, and getting them to the point where they can safely land the plane with consistency,” Eddie’s aviation instructor Travis Ruberto said. “Stage two emphasizes some of the technique stuff, such as short field and stop field landing, perfecting ground reference, while working into the introduction of cross-country planning and flying. Stage three is solo and cross-country flying, and really a perfection of all the other maneuvers that were covered earlier.
“[A common misconception] I hear is that aviation school is easy and always enjoyable,” Ruberto continued. “It’s actually quite a bit of work. I believe there’s more ground knowledge to it than a lot of people are aware of. There’s more studying and book work than a lot of people are led to believe, it’s not all just flying. It’s more academic than people would think.”
Because ofthe rule that requires commercial pilots to retire at the age of65, plane manufacturers like Boeing expect they will need almost 100,000 pilots in North America alone. This just makes Eddie’s dream—one of great diligence and hard work—all the more tangible.
“The interesting thing about the flying is that he’s done it all by himself,” Michael DiBlasi, (Eddie’s father), said. “There’s a tremendous amount ofreading and research that is done individually. He makes the appointments, he drives himself to the airport, he goes up in the plane, he does the flight checkout of the plane, and it’s all 100 percent him. I think it’s really significant that he kind of owns the whole thing.”
“I am planning to continue my training through college, which may mean a commercial certificate,” Eddie said. “However, I am also planning to study air-traffic control in college. If that doesn’t turn out, then I will continue to become a commercial pilot. Piloting experience is actually required at the University of North Dakota, which is where I plan to go. This is so air traffic controllers and pilots are able to know the other side of the story.”
Even with all of this extra planning and time put into aviation, that’s not enough for Eddie. He’s passionately played the jazz piano in the jazz band for six years and diligently studies Latin poetry.
“I think [his passions are] correlated in that when he is flying, or realizing the links between Latin and English, or listening to music, it makes him happy and he kind of goes into a flow, like great sports players do during the game,” Eddie’s brother sophomore Lucas DiBlasi. “There isn’t anything else in the world at that moment, to him, except for what he’s doing.”
“Eddie is quiet and thoughtful,” Latin teacher Johanna Beck said, “but when he’s passionate about something, a spark just lights in him, and he’s on fire and loves to talk. [He] is a serious student who has a gift for Latin poetry. He loves detail, meter, the musical nature, and is always picking out things that I didn’t take the time to notice about Latin poetry. He brings a lot to the class with his attention to detail, which I think translates well into how he flies. He notices things that most young pilots probably wouldn’t.”
Although Eddie’s interests and passions are all serious business, he is able to find humor and fun in his favorite activities.
“Eddie is very serious about [flying] and there’s no kidding around in terms ofwhat you’re doing in a plane,” Michael said. “But, then there are all these jokes that are related to aircrafts and every once in awhile he’ll say one and it’ll be funny because it’s so juxtaposed against the seriousness of the flight operations. He also knows that he doesn’t know it all, so he spends a lot of time with flight instructors understanding all the pieces.”
“He flew us up to Grand Forks a few weeks back,” Michael said, “and at one point he turned around and gave me a goofy smile like ‘Yeah, I can do this!’”