Young aviators camp inspires counselors to take to the skies
07/19/2016 12:55PM ● Published by Richard Gaw
Traditionally, those who find their passions do so over the course of many years. Often, that passion becomes truly solidified only after trial and error leads to persistence, which leads to success and the eventual realization of a dream.
For 18-year-old Hannah Weaver of Kennett Square, and 17-year-old Nick Proietto of West Grove – counselors at the Future Aviators Summer Camp at the New Garden Flying Field this year – the passion they share for aviation seems to have been gift-wrapped by family members and given to them in the form of the endless sky.
Now in her third year as a camp counselor, Weaver was raised on tales of her grandfathers, who both served as airplane mechanics in World War II, told to her mostly by her mother, whose fourth cousins were the Wright Brothers, generally known as the inventors of the airplane.
“I grew up hearing stories from my mother, who grew up in Kansas and would visit flying fields with her brother, who later became a pilot for Cessna,” said Weaver, who graduated from Westtown School this year. “Aviation was always there in my upbringing, and I always enjoyed being around airplanes and airports, and speaking with the people who inhabited those places.”
For Proietto, his love of aviation came from his father Nick, Sr., who had been a registered pilot throughout the 1990s.
“About nine months before I was born, my dad abandoned flying so that he could focus on being a father, but when my brother and I were kids, my dad had video of himself flying at the New Garden Flying Field,” Proietto said. “We used to love watching that video, and we kept bugging him to get back to flying.”
Eventually, the elder Proietto gave in to the wishes of his sons, and joined the Boeing Flying Club in Wilmington, and when Nick, Jr. was ten years old, his father took his sons on a flight aboard a four-seat airplane from the Wilmington Airport to the New Garden Flying Field. It was Nick, Jr.'s first airplane ride.
“As soon as we lifted off the ground and we took off, it was an amazing thing,” he said. “I couldn't stop smiling for the rest of the week.”
In 2009, Proietto was sitting with his father and brother on a bench at the New Garden Flying Field – watching planes take off and land -- when he was approached by Court Dunn, the flying field's flight instructor, and Flying Field aviation director Jon Martin. Later that summer, through the encouragement of Dunn and Martin, Proietto attended his first Future Aviators Summer Camp. He enjoyed it so much, he participated in the next four camps, and is now in his third year as a counselor.
“The camp has an ability to provide so much outreach to the kids, but do it in a way that it's easy for the campers to begin to understand the mystery of aviation,” he said. “The camp gives these kids the first notion that someday, they could take a little airplane down a runway, take off and be in the wild blue yonder.”
“Since the camp started in 2009, our mission has been to expose youngsters to all aspects of aviation, and open the doors to the fascination of flight," Martin said. "I am very excited to say that over the last eight years, the Future Aviators Summer Camp has provided opportunities for many youngsters all over the United States, right here at New Garden Flying Field, to take to the skies and experience the thrill of flight first hand.
"Hannah and Nick are two of the many campers that started in the Future Aviators Summer Camp as campers, and have grown into counselor leadership roles while continuing their flight training," Martin added. "Over the last few years, I am thrilled to be able to list several campers who received their private pilot license when they turned 17, the minimum FAA age requirement. Looking back over the last eight years, witnessing the impact this program has had on many youngsters lives -- not only exposing them to aviation but watching them grow as confident individuals and leaders -- has been very rewarding, and the real success of the program.”
Although Weaver and Proietto are currently sharing their dreams of aviation with the more than 100 campers who are attending this year's camps, they are, at the same time, turning mere dreams into practicality and application. This fall, Weaver will begin college at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio, where she will major in biology with a focus in plant sciences.
“I plan to study plant science, and would enjoy being able to own my own aircraft someday,” said Weaver, who is currently pursuing her pilot's license. “In many remote areas of the world, you can only get here through small aircraft, and I would love to be able to do that myself, rather than have to hire someone. If I can take myself around to places abroad that are related to my career, and use my own plane to do so, would be a dream.”
For Proietto, his aspirations will hope to land him a career as a commercial pilot. Following his graduation from Avon Grove High School next year, he plans to attend a traditional college or university that also provides educational opportunities in aviation management. Eventually, he would like to obtain certifications and ratings in order to become a certified flight instructor and airline transport pilot.
Whenever she has the opportunity to do so, Weaver comes to the New Garden Flying Field to continue her training – practicing her turns and landings – skills that will eventually earn her a pilot's license. For now, however, she looks at her visits as a sanctuary.
“Going to Westtown was an intense experience, and it's not uncommon for students to regularly have to leave on medical leave for weeks, because the stress is so very high,” said Weaver, who credits her flight instructor John Tiplady for helping her learn the ropes of flying. “I have a very different life at school than I have at the flying field. When I'm here, the stress just melts away. When I'm in the air, I really feel like I'm flying, and it gives me something more to focus on, instead of all of the problems back on the ground.”
A certified pilot with a rating as a glider, Proietto gets a 2,500-foot tow from a plane that can take his glider plane as high as one mile off of the ground.
“When I get in the air it's just so calming for me,” he said. “It's the serenity of being up in the clouds. You look up and there's clouds and you're weaving in between them. It's part of why I want to pursue a career in aviation, so I can be up there.”
The next Future Aviators Summer Camp will be held at the New Garden Flying Field from Aug. 6-12. Intended for youngsters from seven to 15 years of age, the camp is a five-day, hands-on experience that provides campers with challenging aviation activities, science projects and airport and museum tours. For more information, visit www.newgardenflyingfield.com.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.