By Rituja Bhowmik, staff writer
Maria Carrillo High School junior Rasheed Adamu is probably the only person you will meet who learned how to fly a plane before learning how to drive a car. Adamu’s journey with aviation began in June 2017, when he was a rising sophomore, but his interest in aviation began long before that.
When he was younger, Adamu’s passion for aviation took the form of any kind of airplane he could get his hands on: model airplanes, remote-controlled airplanes, and model rocketry. He also attended many airshows as a kid, which is what initially sparked his interest in learning how to fly, rather than just making airplanes themselves. He approached the flight school at the Sonoma County airport, where it is uncommon to train teenagers, when he was only 14.
“There are different challenges to being that young, I legally couldn’t fly alone until I was 16, or get my license until I was 17,” says Adamu. Nevertheless, he gained the approval to begin learning the summer he turned 15.
Adamu flies a Cessna 172M, which is a four-seat, single-engine aircraft, ideal for novice pilots. He didn’t have to wait longer than his very first lesson at Flight School to get his very first taste of flying thousands of feet high in the air. After 30 minutes of preflight instruction, his instructor had him control the plan for a takeoff run. “He told me which directions and angles to fly at and had his own controls, but had me do most of the maneuvers–it was a very unique and cool experience.”
In order to be eligible for a private pilot’s license, you need to be at least 17 years of age, and fly a minimum of 40 hours, under various conditions. Some hours need to be completed flying solo, at night, or under Instrument Flight Rules conditions, in which you have to wear a hood, which is meant to simulate low visibility and only enables the pilot to see their instruments in the cockpit.
“When I did my first solo flight, I was pretty scared,” says Adamu. “A lot of multitasking takes place, that’s the hardest part, you have to know exactly where you’re going, who you’re talking to, all at the same time.”
Flight school can be very expensive, so in order to continue his studies, Adamu took up a minimum wage job of washing airplanes at the Flight School, and saves enough to have a flight lesson every three weeks. In addition to Flight School, he has to attend Ground School, which is the academic component of his training. There, he dedicates hours of memorization to learning the Federal Aviation Regulations, navigation, radio communication procedures, aerodynamics, and other aviation-related subjects, many heavy in math and physics concepts.
Becoming a private pilot is no small feat; a lot of commitment is required, in the air and off the air. In the sky, Rasheed practices several maneuvers: take-off runs, radio communications, traffic patterns. He says, “When flying, you always have to keep a vigilant eye. You have to simultaneously watch for other aircraft and make sure you’re sticking to the course.”
When he’s not flying, he’s studying for the written portion of his license exam. The test is comprised of a written portion and a check ride. You have to complete the written exam 60 questions in 150 minutes, and is computerized. You also have to pass the checkride with the examiner, in which maneuvers learned during flight training must be demonstrated.
Adamu’s flight studies have also had applications in his school work. As a Physics and AP Calculus student, Adamu says flying “has helped me understand derivatives of acceleration and velocity better.” However, at the same time, “you learn a lot of things that aren’t useful,” he says. Such things include “E6B Flight Computers,” which is basically a paper calculator that you have to manually operate. Despite the time consuming, academic components of his training Adamu says, “With flying, there’s more emphasis on the practical, doing aspects rather than the mathematical parts.”
Looking to the future, Adamu plans to take his license exam in late April despite the coronavirus outbreak. He says he will likely receive his pilot license before he gets his driver’s license. Aviation is a strong career interest for him; he intends to study aeronautical engineering or become a commercial pilot, though he says he’s set himself up to be able to do either of them. For Adamu, “flying is a challenge, but it’s a fun challenge.”