Aviation Club Takes Students to the Skies

Saturday, November 17 was a cool and clear day on Colgate’s campus. I arose early to head out to the Hamilton Airport with two other students and Junior Joshua Lasker, the creator of the Colgate Aviation Club. I had the privilege and the incredible opportunity to fly a 1963 Cessna 172D and I was even lucky enough to film my adventure for Colgate University Television (CUTV). Other Colgate students had the privilege to fly on Thursday, Friday or Saturday after completing an extensive application process.

The pilot, Rick Bargabos, has been flying for many years. He comes from a family of pilots, as his mother, father, brother and wife each have their pilot’s licenses as well.

The flight began with a routine pre-flight inspection of the plane. Bargabos explained how to properly inspect the plane to ensure that it was safe for flying.

The check started with an exterior inspection of the plane to make sure it was not damaged in any way. Bargabos made sure that every aspect of the plane was safe for flight, checking everything from the wings and the propellers to the smallest nuts and bolts. He checked for leaks and obstructions and he assured everyone that the plane was sound. Bargabos then inspected the interior of the plane, also checking to make sure that everything was situated properly.

During the inspection, Bargabos answered every question the students had in full detail, giving a complete lesson on the physical design of the plane.

After the pre-flight inspection, we were ready to fly. I was the first one to fly and, admittedly, I was nervous at first. There were controls on both the pilot’s side and the passenger’s side, so Bargabos was there if we needed help in any way; however, he really did let us have complete control of the plane.

I had thought at first that piloting the plane would be similar to driving a car, as there are pedals and a steering wheel-type control. Although there are these two similarities, driving and flying are quite different. The pedals are used to steer the plane while on the ground and the steering wheel, also known as the yoke, is used to fly the plane while up in the air. While piloting, each student had the opportunity to take off, fly over campus and land. Flying the plane actually was a lot easier than it appeared and I became comfortable with flying almost immediately.

Flying over the campus was truly a surreal moment. The campus looked so peaceful and quaint from 2,000 feet in the air. Afterwards, I brought the plane back to the Hamilton Airport and my landing was much smoother than expected.

While the others flew the Cessna, Josh Lasker and I had the incredible experience of flying in a helicopter. Not only did I get some great shots of the campus for CUTV, but we also flew over downtown Hamilton and Lake Moraine. The helicopter ride was surreal – I was speechless and I couldn’t stop smiling.

“That was the best moment of my life. We were so close to the ground, it was absolutely unbelievable and fantastic,” Lasker said after stepping out of the helicopter.

Sophomore Dezhi Yu also learned to fly on Saturday.

“I was actually very scared. I was an alternate for the first 30 minutes and I felt very dizzy and sort of sick,” Yu said. “But the scenery was gorgeous. I know that where we are is really hilly, but it’s my first time visualizing it and it’s more beautiful than I thought. We were flying over campus and it felt as if we were in a national park; it’s very beautiful. When I was actually the pilot, I didn’t feel dizzy, but I was pretty scared. I was afraid that whatever I did was going to cause the plane to crash. I was kind of like a robot and I just wanted Mr. Bargabos to tell me what to do. The steering is so subtle and it changes a lot with just a little bit of steering.”

Lasker sent out a campus-wide email with a brief application for students that wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to learn to fly on campus. He offered the same program during the previous spring semester.

“I was very lucky,” Yu said. “It’s a good thing I read the mass emails that everyone complains about. During my first year, I didn’t even bother trying to apply because I didn’t think that I would get the opportunity to fly. I strongly encourage everyone to try flying. It’s a really good way to see more of campus and more of the neighborhood, especially for a foreign student.”

“Above all, the executive board and I looked for passionate people. If you had flight experience in the past and already fell in love but needed another opportunity, or if you were passionately curious about the prospect of trying something knew-it didn’t matter,” Lasker said. “I believe that passion and enthusiasm are contagious, and in order to serve our mission of increasing the presence of aviation on Colgate’s campus, I wanted people that if turned on, would shine light for all to see on something that has for so long been in the dark up on the hill.”

Lasker is impressed with the turnout so far and plans to offer this experience to students in the future.

“I believe last spring when we first started the program, and this fall’s flights were incredibly successful, and as long as there is continued interest while I am at Colgate, I will work hard to make sure this happens again,” Lasker said.

Contact Elizabeth Marino at [email protected].