Students soar toward pilots licenses

Max Beitzel, asst. features editor

Senior PJ Tamul spends three hours almost every Sunday thousands of feet in the air, flying an airplane high above the clouds. Along with other students at South, Tamul loves piloting airplanes in his free time.

Tamul has been flying airplanes since the spring of 2021, and has acquired 65 hours of flight time. He first became interested in piloting at around nine years old, and once he turned 16, began to take flying lessons.

“I have no family background in aviation,” Tamul said. “[When I started] flight lessons I really loved it. I’ve been going at it ever since.”

Although nobody in his family is a pilot, they have been very supportive of his passions to become a pilot, Amy Tamul, PJ’s mother explained. When PJ was about nine years old, while playing in the outfield on his little league baseball team, his parents understood his passion. 

“We’d worried that he was gonna miss a fly ball, because he was looking in the sky at the planes overhead.” Amy said.

An aspect of his interest in getting his pilot’s license for his parents was the conversion from a childhood interest into a career, Amy explained. PJ continued to display interest in becoming a pilot throughout his youth and into his teenage years, Amy said.

“[When] he started taking flying lessons, he started to really gauge if this would be more of a career choice, and then go on to college with it.” Amy said.

Flight school was the finalizing aspect that solidified PJ’s goal to become a pilot due to the perseverance and dedication needed, Amy said. At flight school, PJ was able to become more accustomed with what he would have to deal with daily as a pilot, PJ explained. 

For student pilots, the majority of the preparation for flying involves studying aerodynamics and how to properly prepare for takeoff, PJ explained. At flight school, PJ studies and practices plane movement, different maintenance procedures, and different approaches for emergency situations. To continue practicing outside of flight school, PJ used other creative methods. PJ finds “chair flying” as a helpful way for him to maintain continuity and proficiency if he is not in the air every day.

“[I] do a thing called chair flying,” PJ said. “[I] get in any chair at home [and] pretend like [I’m] in an airplane and go through all [my cockpit routines], different procedures and maneuvers.”

As another aspiring pilot, senior Alyssa Yagelski has gathered about 15 hours of flying time and feels comfortable in the air due to the knowledge she has gained in flight school throughout the summer and during the school week. For Yagelski, the experience she has while in the air is the most valuable.

“It’s super exciting,” Yagelski said. “When [I am] sitting in the cockpit, [I] see everything below [me] starting to disappear. It’s exhilarating.” 

Yagelski explained that her ability to aid in the happiness of others has also helped motivate her to work towards her pilot’s license so she can one day fly commercial planes. She hopes to spend every day of her future flying people to their dream vacations.

“I like doing things to make people happy,” Yagelski explained. “If what I can do for other people is [taking them] to [the place they want to go], that’s what I’m going to do.”

Junior DJ Przybylak also values the opportunity to interact and connect with others through aviation. Przybylak has been able to share his appreciation for aviation with others who also love aviation at aviation events such as air shows like the Chicago  Air and Water Show and EAA AirVenture.

“[The aviation community] is something that I like to call home,” Przybylak said. “Sharing that commonality with other people connects us.”

Przybylak’s interest in flying started with his dream to serve in either the United States Air Force or Polish Air Force, but he has since switched focus to being a commercial pilot. Becoming a commercial pilot is a large responsibility, Przybylak explained.

“[Pilots require] bravery and loads of concentration,” Przybylak said. “As a commercial pilot, you’re gonna have lives in your hands.”

Przybylak acknowledged the potential risks of flying but has always believed that the field is the perfect fit for him.

“[My aviation] dream has not died down,” Przybylak said. “It has always been there and will always be there until the day I die.”