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Charlie Ippolito

Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted to fly. My mom and dad are both retired Army aviators, so aviation has been a fundamental part of my life since birth. Getting a pilot’s license for me seemed almost as natural (and necessary) as getting a driver’s license. As I was growing up, my dad took me to airshows at Langley Air Force Base and Oceana Naval Air Station, and every summer when visiting family near Washington DC, I spent time at both of the Smithsonian Air and Space museums. In middle school I began using the Microsoft Flight Simulator at home, and it was a lot of fun “flying” around familiar airports and trying to finesse a smooth landing.  My first actual flight aboard a private aircraft was on September 24, 2016 when I logged 0.3 hours in a Cessna 172 with the EAA Young Eagles program at Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport.  This flight was even more thrilling than advertised, and it convinced me that a career in aviation was definitely in my future.  EAA offered a deal for students to sign up for the online Sporty’s Pilot Shop Learn to Fly course, so I did that right away and began working on the six-module course that prepares you for the FAA exam. What I really wanted most, however, was to just fly a real live aircraft, but the whole process seemed so complicated and expensive. 

            I first heard about WASP when I was searching online for flying opportunities towards the end of 10thgrade. I had just missed the WASP application window that year, so I put my name on the email update list to get notified about the next application cycle.  In spring of 11thgrade I completed the application and crossed my fingers.  I was so excited when I got notified for an interview in June, but I knew there was stiff competition, so I was also very nervous.  About a week or so later, I found out I had been awarded a WASP scholarship, and it was one of the proudest moments of my life.  After that, things moved very quickly and by mid-July I took my first flight with my flight instructor Tim McSwain.  It was like a dream come true!  Then, about a month later when I made the third and final landing of my first solo flight, I felt an exhilarating and incredible sense of relief and accomplishment realizing that I had just actually flown an aircraft by myself.

            There are so many reasons I am grateful to WASP and all of the people who make this program possible. First, the program funds all of my flight training up to 50 total hours, which is so generous that most people think it’s too good to be true.  But WASP is much more than just a bill payer for my flying. The best thing about WASP is that the people who run the program all share a passion and enthusiasm for flying; they are very generous with their time because they really care about our success as future aviators.  Whether they are retired military aviators or active commercial or recreational pilots, the board members, flight instructors, and mentors are all very friendly, professional, and have incredibly high levels of aviation expertise which they willingly share and discuss. The WASP program at the Williamsburg Flight Center is an extraordinary environment for an aspiring aviator, and I am personally so grateful for the opportunities WASP has provided me to pursue my passion and get a head start on a great career in aviation.