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My Kolstad Essay

Kolstad Youth Scholarship Grant

Rachel Conklin

August 2011


Although no one in my family was an aviator, I had always been interested in airplanes. I recall looking to the sky when hearing an aircraft and always wanting to stop along the roadside when passing an airport to watch a few take-offs or landings.


Soaring achievements, sailplanes flown, awards won, SSA Badges, FAI, and FAA Licenses

I began my flying career in September 2006 when I was 14. A family outing to Randall Airport in Middletown, NY introduced me to the sport of soaring for the first time. It was there at the Valley Soaring Club, I took my first glider flight. I remember being so nervous that I was almost crying as I climbed into the Schweizer 2-33. However, as soon as we were airborne I couldn’t believe my eyes - I was flying! I was hooked after that first flight and I joined the club that very day. Within two months and 28 flights, I soloed the 2-33 earning my “A” badge on November 18, 2006. I went on to earn my “B” badge on August 11, 2007, and my “C” badge the very next day on August 12, 2007.

I spent nearly every weekend at the airport increasing my airtime while learning how to soar efficiently and slowly broadening my exploration area in the air. Since both my father and my younger sister were taking lessons as well, we always found a reason to head to the airport on weekend mornings. Since my initial solo I have had the opportunity to fly many of our club’s gliders. I received sign off for, and have flown the Schweizer 2-33, 1-26, and 1-34, as well as the ASK-21. On September 1, 2008, after studying for a few months, I earned my private pilot glider certificate, the same day my father earned his.

Not only do I fly gliders, I fly single engine airplanes as well. I began training for my private SEL license March 2008 and passed my Airplane SEL practical test in December 2009. Since then I have enjoyed taking up my family and friends in both gliders and power planes.

I have begun to study and train for my Commercial glider license with the hopes of becoming licensed as soon as possible. In order to become a commercial pilot, I realize I must fly the glider to very strict standards. This appeals to me because I want to fly as precisely and efficiently as possible. Although I do not have a set goal or limit on myself in my flying, I plan to keep learning and exploring the world of soaring as far as I can. At the same time, I am currently taking instrument lessons in a C-172 and am working toward earning an instrument rating.


Involvement in Soaring Club, School and Community

As a junior member in the Valley Soaring Club, it is expected that one volunteer and help out the operation in exchange for lower flight instruction and glider rental and tow rates.  I help out every weekend that I am able. I have worked as wing runner, log keeper, helped assemble gliders, assisted land out retrieves, and helped train other juniors in field operations. In December of 2010, I found a new way to help out the club; I received my tail dragger endorsement and since then, I have been checked out as a tow pilot and now fly the Piper Super Cub and tow gliders as well. As of August 13th of this year, I was given the keys to the other tow plane, the Club’s Piper Pawnee.

During the past year, I became interested in soaring competitions and contests. Last summer, I learned about a regional contest that would be held not far from where I lived. I decided to visit it and see what a contest looked like since I knew that some of the Valley Soaring members would be competing. One of my instructors at Valley Soaring, Henry Nixon, known as Uncle Hank, is a frequent competitor in many of the regional competitions in the Northeast. Uncle Hank flies his ASK-21 at some of the contests he competes in and opens the backseat up for members who would like to fly with him. He learned that I was interested and gave me the chance to fly with him at the Region 2 North contest in Wurtsboro, NY, in July 2010 and the Region 2 contest in Mifflin, PA in May of this year. My Valley Soaring newsletter article on my experiences flying with Uncle Hank at the Mifflin contest was published recently in the August issue of Soaring Magazine. Not only have I flown in a couple contests, but I have also been ground crew for Uncle Hank as well as helped retrieve a few pilots during contests. Flying in the backseat of the ASK-21 and learning how a competition works was an eye-opening and rewarding experience.


Present plans for further education and eventual vocation

While I am heavily interested in aviation, I have decided to pursue music in college. This fall, I will be attending SUNY Fredonia with the intention to major in violin performance. At the present, I am not sure whether I will pursue a solid performance career, or if I will lean towards teaching the violin professionally instead. No matter the outcome, flying will always be very important to me.

In the world of aviation, I am currently studying for my commercial glider certificate and power instrument rating. I hope to have those accomplished as soon as possible. I also plan on earning my Bronze badge and then moving on to the FAI Silver badge. Although aviation and specifically glider flying is just a hobby, I intend to fly for the rest of my life. Flying is such a rewarding and challenging sport, and in my opinion the best way to enjoy a beautiful sunny day.  

Posted: 1/3/2016 By: Rachel Conklin

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