When the average person thinks of flying, he or she views it as a pretty straightforward process: board the plane, sit through the monotonous flight, look outside every once and awhile, land and continue on.
However, not every passenger on the plane has this same outlook. For Paly senior Ben Wexler, an avid pilot, a whole new perspective on flying is required, that of a pilot behind the yoke.
Not many people truly know the time constraints required for flying and the fact that a teenager was able to accomplish such a demanding task is quite astonishing.
Wexler, one of few teenage pilots in the Bay Area, credits his love of flying to his early interest in the motion of objects.
“I have always [been] interested in things that moved like trains, planes and cars,” Wexler said. “However, when I was nine years old I went flying with my dad’s friend in his plane, and I loved it. From that point on I knew I wanted to get my pilot’s license.”
Starting July of 2011, Wexler began his piloting lessons and a year later received his piloting license, allowing him to take to the skies, solo. It may seem quite daunting at first flying alone, but Wexler attributes his confidence to the training he received and how he could truly be himself when flying.
Flying is an experience that most people do not ever get to experience and that alone gives Wexler an experience unlike no other.
However, earning his pilot’s license while balancing the work of his junior year was, without a doubt, a difficult task.
“[Flight] progress is measured by hours,” Wexler said. “And some of the training requires you to fly by yourself before you [can] receive the license, but when I got my license I had 77.2 hours.”
Even though what was both an arduous task and quite the time-consuming affair, the pilot’s license allowed Wexler to do many enjoyable activities.
“I have given numerous friends and family ‘Bay Tours’ of the San Francisco Bay where I essentially fly over San Fran, Alcatraz, The Golden Gate Bridge and Oakland,” Wexler said. “I have also taken trips to Santa Rosa and Monterey for lunch, [along with a trip to] Monterey for the aquarium as well.”
Still, Wexler has higher goals on the horizon. He also plans on continuing his flying career and take it to great new heights.
“In the next few weeks I plan to get a rating in a more powerful plane and a mountain flying rating so I can safely fly over Yosemite,” Wexler said. “Aside from the trips I have taken and plan to take, one of the best parts of the flying itself is that I can create slight moments of ‘Zero G’ which [are] really fun.”
While piloting may seem purely enjoyable, it has its downsides, just like anything else.
“[Sitting in the cockpit] is much more comfortable,” Wexler said. “However the one caveat is that I cannot get up and go to the bathroom. That probably limits how far I can fly more than how much fuel the plane can carry.”
Despite these minor drawbacks, Wexler and pilots alike get to experience flying in a completely different way than us laypersons do, and that alone provides them with satisfaction.
“I enjoy flying for a number of reasons,” Wexler said. “First I like the challenge and unpredictability that comes with it. However much I may plan for a flight by knowing the weather, what route I’m taking, etc, an instance might occur that will make me amend my flight plan. In addition, since the Bay Area airspace is quite congested, it is sometimes a challenge dealing with different tower controllers when everybody else is trying to talk to them as well.”
Sitting in the cockpit also gives Wexler and expansive view of the world below him.
This is unlike the experience of a passenger who is confined to the gloomy cabin of the plane itself, and arguably a much better experience.
“Since I enjoy hiking and being in nature while I am on the ground, flying allows me to experience nature from a different vantage point, where I get see the whole landscape instead of just part of it,” Wexler said.
Along with this, flying gives Wexler time to ponder and reflect, as well as de-stress from his academics and day-to-day life.
“When I am thousands of feet up in the air the issues that seem important on the ground seem quite trivial. It also makes one realize how small our world actually is,” Wexler said.