Blue Springs South student Hayden Kolster received an opportunity of a lifetime.
Kolster, a Junior ROTC Lt. Col., A Squadron, was one of 150 cadets to win the USAF of Staff Private Pilot Scholarship, giving him the opportunity to study aviation and learn how to fly an airplane at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, over the summer.
The scholarship was worth more than $80,000 – and he had to take a test to get it. Before heading to Purdue, he also had to get a medical evaluation and put in three hours per day in ground school, where students learn everything they need to know about flying a plane before actually going up in one.
“They have to be near the top of their class, they have to be physically fit and they have to meet a lot of requirements before we even submit their name,” South’s retired Col. Stan Cole said. “We submitted two or three kids as applicants this year.”
Kolster recently received his private pilot license, which had been a dream of his ever since he took an Aerospace Science 200 course at Blue Springs South.
“I thought this was just a stepping stone for what I want to do in the future,” said Kolster, who will be a senior starting in August. “It was a blessing. It was a stressful, high-intense program.”
Added Cole: “Hayden is the second kid we put through the program in the last two years. This is the second year of the program that the Air Force has had it. We have a good pipeline going and we hope to keep sending kids there.”
During the six-week program at Purdue, Kolster said he stayed up until 3 a.m. studying and averaged about four hours per sleep per day. Once he finally got on the plane, which was a Cessna 172 Skyhawk, it was an invigorating experience.
“You feel like you are on top of the world,” he said. “After going through this program, I know aviation and flying is my passion.
“It was a basic, general plane to learn in. But it had a computer in there that most planes don’t have. It made it a lot easier. It’s like having an iPad right in front of you.”
Kolster said he’s always been a fan of roller coasters and said flying a plane is “the roller coaster of the sky.” During his first lesson, he said he had “no idea what he was doing.” He proceeded with caution when his instructor guided him.
He practiced such things as cross country flying (going from one airport to the next), slow flight (slowing down to 50 mph), power off stalls (a stall when the plane is preparing to land), power on stall (going straight up at full speed after takeoff) and steep turns.
“I was pretty nervous on my first flight,” Kolster said. “After that first solo, I was really confident, maybe too confident when I flew.”
Now that he has his private pilot license, Kolster has a multitude of options. There are various other pilot licenses he can go for, including a high performance and complex one, which would allow him to fly faster planes. He can also achieve an instrument rating, which would allow him to fly in any weather. Another one he could go for is a sports or acrobating, which would allow him to fly lighter planes and do flips.
He said he plans on going back to Purdue in the near future to achieve a complex rating.
“From there, I can fly pretty much any aircraft that’s a single-engine and that’s not high performance,” he said.
After high school, Kolster said he is debating whether to go to the U.S. Naval Academy or the U.S. Air Force Academy.
“If I go to the Air Force Academy, I hope to fly F-35s or F-42s,” he said. “If I go to the Naval Academy, I might actually pick the Marines and fly for them. Their harrier jets (which can hover) get a lot of action, and that’s really cool.”