Tuesday, 24 March 2020 20:01

Raider teammates take to the sky

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Cole Deane (left) and Lee Hayden are working toward their private pilot's license. Cole Deane (left) and Lee Hayden are working toward their private pilot's license. Contributed photo.

ROCKINGHAM — Two Richmond Senior High School soccer players are taking the term “teamwork” to a whole other level.

Seniors Cole Deane and Lee Hayden, who have been Raider teammates the last four years, are filling their time during the current school closures by taking to the skies over Richmond County.

The duo is currently working toward earning their private pilot’s license, something many high schoolers, and people in general, often only dream about.

During a career day seminar at Richmond in mid December, Deane and Hayden sat in on a session hosted by Alan Sowell, a commercial pilot and captain for United Airlines. Based on Sowell’s description of what a career as a pilot entailed, both seniors decided to start logging hours in the classroom and at the airport.

Sowell, a 1981 graduate from Richmond, contacted principal Jim Butler early in the school year to set up the general interest meeting. During his time as a Raider student, Sowell earned his private pilot’s license.

“At the time, I didn't’ have an idea what I wanted to do after high school,” Hayden explained. “But after hearing Mr. Sowell talk, I thought being a pilot would be a pretty cool job and a way to make good money.”

“Not a lot of the ‘normal jobs’ interested me,” Deane echoed. “Flying a plane seemed like it’d be something I could enjoy. Now I know it’s a lot of fun and look forward to making a career out of it.”

With the help of Jason Perakis, Richmond’s CTE career development coordinator, Deane and Hayden arranged a fourth-block internship at the Richmond County Airport starting in early January. Also coordinating the effort was Jason Gainey, the airport’s manager.

Not only does the internship provide the two Raiders with a chance to study and prepare for their PPL, but they’re also awarded one free hour of flight lessons for every 10 hours worked.

The pair has worked with Gainey around the airport, and have received classroom instruction from Rich Smith. Both agreed that the classroom material is the “toughest part,” having to master physics, Bernoulli’s principle, Newton’s laws of motion and the Venturi effect.

Also with the help of Bob Deen, Hayden and Deane are completing four classroom hours a week and have learned the basic operations of how planes work and fly. They also have logged several hours in the air, with Deane notching 20 hours and Hayden close behind with 14 hours.

“The first time I went up with Mr. Gainey, he let me control the plane,” Deane shared. “It was crazy to feel that I was in control of it. Mr. Gainey is a great instructor, and after only 20 hours of him shadowing us, we got the hang of it pretty quickly.”

“We learn so much every time we go up,” Hayden added. “Once we learned the basics and got better at them, it’s much easier to fly the plane. There’s so much adrenaline when we take off and land.”

On March 8, Deane became the first of the two to take his first solo flight, taking off and flying above his hometown in a Piper Warrior single-engine aircraft before successfully landing.

“It was such a cool experience to go up and fly a plane by myself,” Deane said. “It was so crazy to look down on my hometown and see my house and my school.”

Both Raiders are looking to continue their young flying careers when they head off to college in the fall, as both are considering attending Middle Georgia State University. The university, located in Macon, is known for its aviation school.

Hayden is also considering playing soccer for the Knights, and added that the guidance by Gainey and the other instructors at Richmond County Airport are giving them a step up on their college education.

“Hopefully our futures will be with the airline industry,” Hayden said. “What we’re doing now through our lessons is helping us get ahead for when we go to college. It’s like taking a semester class before we get there.”

The progression for the two teammates and future flyers will see them continue to log hours in the classroom and in the sky. They’re working toward their PPL, which requires them to have at least 40 flight hours.

To earn their license, Deane and Hayden explained they will need to pass a written exam, a two-hour oral exam and take a practical flying exam with a Designated Pilot Examiner. Whatever the case, the two are glad to be on this journey together.

“It’s really cool to be doing this together,” Hayden said. “We’ve been teammates a long time, and friends even longer. Learning this at the same time with Cole has made it a more comfortable experience.”

“Having Lee out there helps me focus,” Deane closed. “Our years of working together on the soccer field have really helped us get the hang of flying.”

Last modified on Tuesday, 24 March 2020 20:10

Kyle Pillar

Sports Editor. IUP communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

Submit local sports scores to: kpillar@richmondobserver.com

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