Written by Annie Melbert ’15

Not many people can say they learned how to fly a plane before they learned how to drive a car, but Brebeuf Jesuit junior Ryan Plaskoff certainly can.

Last summer, he participated in the Saint Louis University’s Aviation Summer Academy, a weeklong camp that invites 20 rising high school juniors and seniors to explore different aspects of the aviation industry, including flight science, aviation management, aerial navigation, aircraft design, and air traffic control.

Ryan enjoyed this program because it granted him the unique opportunity to surround himself with students who shared his passion for flying. He and his peers spent their time exploring the St. Louis area, touring different airports, meeting with pilots, and joking about which of them would fly through the famous Gateway Arch. Under the supervision of certified flight instructors, they also had the opportunity to pilot several flights, but Ryan was no stranger to the skies prior to this program. He began his formal training at just 14 years old.

“It’s always been something I wanted to do,” Ryan said, recalling a photo of his five-year-old self in one of the planes he currently flies.

His initial training began with a discovery flight, a brief introductory lesson designed to familiarize people with the flying process and help them decide whether or not to pursue a pilot’s license. Since this initial exposure to aviation, Ryan has begun practicing aerial maneuvers and flying trips as long as two hours.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Ryan said. “I was kind of surprised when I did my first couple lessons just how much freedom I had. I didn’t know that my instructor would trust me so much. The first time I sat in the cockpit, after we started the engine, he just sat back and said, ‘Alright, do your thing.’”

He recognizes that the pilot life may not be for everybody, though.

“For some people, flying in those little planes isn’t fun because it’s different from flying in a commercial plane,” Ryan explained. “It’s more of a rollercoaster than just sitting in a bus in the sky. You feel everything when you fly in those things.”

Although his parents sometimes worry for his safety, Ryan is grateful for their support in bringing him to the airport for flight lessons and their effort to take an interest in his passion.

In addition to his Brebeuf Jesuit education, Ryan is enrolled in ground school, which involves 35 hours of online classes that will prepare him for his first solo flight. When he turns 17, he will be able to get his official pilot’s license, which requires him to pass written and practical exams. He hopes to complete the final checkride on his seventeenth birthday next September.

Ryan has certainly learned a lot about the aviation industry, but his flight lessons have actually made learning how to drive more difficult, funnily enough.

“On the ground when you’re taxiing and taking off, you actually steer with your feet, and you use power with your hands,” Ryan explained. “There are two pedals, so you push the right one to go right, and the left one to go left. When I first drove in the car, I accidentally hit the brake pedal to try to turn left and then the gas trying to turn right, so that contributed to some interesting roundabout experiences.”

Outside of flying, Ryan has played piano for 11 years, plays Ultimate Frisbee at Brebeuf, and serves as Vice President of the Indianapolis chapter of BBYO, a worldwide youth organization for Jewish teens. Additionally, he works as a server at Bub’s Burgers in Carmel to finance his flight training. His favorite class is AP Physics because of Mr. Rott’s interactive demonstrations and the smaller class size.

Although he’s still a junior, he has started scoping out colleges, hoping to pursue professional flight science or aeronautical engineering at Stanford, Purdue, Michigan, or St. Louis University. Who knows? Someday he might just pilot one of your flights!