It was a busy and exciting week for Aerprize scholars Carmel Byrne and Conor Kennedy.
They plied themselves diligently to studying for their private pilot written exam. To give them a break from the intensity, ACF Business Development Manager Lindsay Kast arranged a much-coveted tour of the SpaceX facility in Hawthorne on Tuesday. She whisked them away without revealing their destination until they pulled in to Rocket Road. Only when the rocket booster outside the facility came into view did they realize where they were going.
“It was a rare opportunity to tour the largest SpaceX facility,” says Lindsay. “Seeing how SpaceX pushes the boundaries of aerospace piqued the interest of this budding astronaut and business professional.”
“My favourite part of the tour was seeing all the different phases of the rockets,” says Carmel. The mission control centre held the most fascination for Conor. “Our guide was really knowledgeable, and he told us he works with people from all around the world,” Conor says. That sparked his hope of a possible SpaceX connection in the future.
On Friday, both Conor and Carmel aced their private pilot written exam. They’re too modest to boast about their scores – let’s just say they did exceptionally well. When they returned to ACF from the testing facility, we toasted their success with that famous California appellation, Martinelli’s.
Their written tests complete, the student pilots will concentrate on getting ready for their stage checks this week. They took a weekend break to attend the US Open of Surfing at the Huntington Beach Pier, where they observed other forms of transport besides rockets and planes – surfboards, skateboards and BMX bikes.
Fly Outs - Aerprize Week 3
Irish students Conor Kennedy and Carmel Byrne started a whirlwind trip to AirVenture in Oshkosh last week at the controls of a Citation Mustang. Ages 19 and 17, neither has a driver’s license yet, but both tested their mettle in the cockpit with Aero City Group President Seosamh Somers as the instructor. The students are here on an intensive six-week program to earn their private pilot license at Aero City Group’s southern California flight school, Angel City Flyers.
Carmel, from Kells, Ireland, and Conor, from Dublin, won the Aerprize scholarship sponsored by Angel City Flyers, which provides flight training, travel and accommodations, all expenses paid. Conor flew the Mustang to 20,000 feet out of KLGB when the group left for Oshkosh on August 25. After a stop for lunch and fuel in Lincoln, Nebraska, it was Carmel’s turn to take off in the jet out of KLNK.
At Oshkosh, Carmel and Conor were young VIPs, congratulated by many aviation enthusiasts from throughout the U.S. and the world who were eager to hear about a scholarship program for aspiring pilots. “Aerprize is a unique way to expose students to aviation and provides a new aspect of flight training,” Somers said.
The student pilots observed trending innovation in aviation and aerospace, took part in a virtual reality simulation of Diamond Aircraft, and witnessed fighter jet demonstrations. At night, they witnessed nighttime air shows and dramatic fireworks displays, complete with a wall of fire.
Their packed days at Oshkosh included time to admire antique, classic, and contemporary aircraft, including a T34 C model, one of only two in the world, once used as an escort plane for top-level government officials in Gabon. The glimpse of the latest aerospace technology at the NASA Pavilion captivated Carmel, a potential astronaut-to-be. Seeing – and flying – state-of-the-art aircraft was one of the high points for Conor.
Conor, keenly interested in the business side of aviation in addition to learning to fly, said, “I didn’t think I’d ever fly in a private jet at age 19, much less pilot one.”
Somers created the Aerprize scholarship “to expand students’ knowledge of the role of science in aviation,” he said. “STEM education is the launchpad for anyone who wants to help build the future with technology.”
Mentoring these top students is a pleasure, Somers added. “They’re an inspiration to others their age who want to be part of aviation. And for pilots who have been flying for a while, Conor and Carmel remind us of the unbelievable, heady excitement of the early days in our careers.”
Steep Turns, Stalls and LA Scenery – Aerprize Week 2
Learning to fly is thrilling no matter where it happens, but Aerprize scholars Carmel Byrne and Conor Kennedy are experiencing extra excitement as they train with views of LA’s storied skyline and landmarks. Steep turns and stalls in the Diamond DA40 were part of this week’s flight training curriculum, with two flights each afternoon and early evening, an advantage of Southern California’s long summer days. There were practice takeoffs and landings at Hawthorne Municipal Airport (KHHR), John Wayne Airport (KSNA) and Van Nuys Airport (KVNY), where the famous opening scene from the classic movie Casablanca was filmed in 1942.
The flight over downtown LA provided an eagle-eye glimpse of the spire atop the 73-story Wilshire Grand Center, currently the tallest building west of the Mississippi. The student pilots also previewed the iconic Dodger Stadium from the sky, in advance of attending their first American baseball game next week when the Dodgers will take on the Milwaukee Brewers.
Conor and Carmel spent their mornings concentrating on ground school lessons as they prepare for their private pilot written exam. “Conor’s passion for aviation has been a great motivator,” says Jeremy Chavez, Conor’s flight instructor. Carmel’s instructor Karlie Isenhower adds, “Carmel already sounds completely professional when she’s talking to [the air traffic control] tower.”
The intensity of this week’s flight training was punctuated with a couple of breaks, one at Universal Studios where Conor and Carmel contemplated Harry Potter’s style of flying. On Thursday, Angel City Flyers celebrated St. Patrick’s Day early with an Irish-themed reception in the students’ honour.
Aerprize Winners Touch Down in California – Week 1
Aerprize winners Carmel Byrne and Conor Kennedy touched down in Southern California last week just in time for their first Fourth of July celebration stateside, complete with a backyard barbecue, funny hats and a patriotic firework display from the pier in Seal Beach.
Winners of the scholarship sponsored by Angel City Flyers (ACF), Carmel and Conor are enrolled in ACF’s 141 PPL course, training to get their private pilot certificate with instructors Karlie Isenhower and Jeremy Chavez in ACF’s state-of-the-art DiamondStar fleet.
Highlights so far:
“Flying through LAX Class B airspace in the DA40 was really exciting,” says Carmel. “We could see the massive planes above and below us.” In the busy Los Angeles/Long Beach airspace, they’ve witnessed A380 airliners rushing overhead as they master the art of single-engine aircraft.
Steep turns in the local Long Beach practice area gave Conor a G-force thrill, he says. And both student pilots savoured the view along the Riviera-like Laguna Beach coastline en route to Palomar (KCRQ).
The excitement of learning to fly in southern California comes with gustatory pleasures, like the famous tri-tip sandwiches at Waypoint Café in Camarillo (KCMA), and a bit of time off to tour Venice Beach and Santa Monica.
Next up: More ground and flight lessons on an intense daily schedule, with a bit of a break for ACF’s Third Thursday event on July 19 in their honour.
Angel City Flyers are thrilled to have Carmel and Conor with them on this journey and see their progress along the way.