After a four-year journey of training and testing, a local teen is moving from dreams to career plans as he looks onward and upward to the next step on his life’s path as an aviator.
On March 27, Blum attained his official Federal Aviation Administration airman’s certificate, aka pilot’s license.
“I did very well,” Blum said, with a broad smile.
Captain Blum began his flight training at the age of 13. Since then, he has worked several jobs, kept up with home schooling to graduate in 2014 and spent hundreds of aviation-training hours studying, testing and flying.
Blum’s flight instructor Geoff Pope said the young aviator followed a “very specific, published set standards” to prepare for the three-part pilot’s license exam: “learn basic flying skills; hone those skills further during a series of cross-country flights; and review the FAA parameters for the practical exam.” Blum also had to be 17 years old, which he accomplished on Feb. 26.
In January, Blum flew Pope’s Cessna 172 solo from Bishop’s Eastern Sierra Regional Airport to the testing center at Lancaster’s William J. Fox Airport to take part one of the licensing exam, a 60-question written test that involves “some interpolation,” Blum said. “I nailed every single question. After taking the written test, I fell in love with airplanes all over again. I can’t explain; it’s something (probably) only pilots would understand.”
On March 25, Reno-based FAA Inspector Larry Cheek administered parts two and three, oral and practical exams, at Minden Airport in Nevada, Blum said. The oral exam is a series of “‘what if’ scenarios and equipment identification questions,” that tested his ability to explain aeronautical knowledge, “to see if I know what I am doing.”
The practical exam, was “entirely scenario-based,” Blum said. He had to demonstrate his in-flight abilities in specific situations – skills such as holding altitude, making standard maneuvers and following proper emergency procedures. Blum proved to be “very familiar” with hundreds of pages of federal aviation regulations and aeronautical information. Knowing it is one thing, he said. “It’s a completely different challenge to show the skills to the examiner.”
The exam was “pretty challenging,” Blum said. Cheeks “threw a lot of curve balls I wasn’t expecting” and the toughest part was “flying into the Reno airport solely by reference to instruments,” wearing a hood that obstructed all view outside of the plane. On top of that, the weather “was actually pretty turbulent.” Overall, Blum said these challenges were pluses because he was able to handle them. Apparently his key relaxation technique, “a good night’s sleep,” panned out for him.
Parental support was a boon, too. Teresa and Sam Blum had driven to Minden to support their son. Blum said he celebrated with a milkshake.
Teresa Blum said that for her son it’s been an “ongoing process. He’s had to work on it one step at a time. We’re grateful for the aviation and employment opportunities that have allowed him to use his God-given skills … his personal motivation to pursue his goals and being home-educated,” which allowed for flexibility with flight training. Sam Blum, who is “very proud of Wesley for sticking with it,” added that his son “paid for the biggest part” of the cost over four years and he attributed his son’s skill set for success to his mother.
That skill set won Blum the license to fly between 13,000 feet above sea level and 500 feet above ground level, “in single-engine, land (not sea), under-200-horsepower planes and to fly and land at any airport except restricted ones like military air strips and large commercial ones like LAX,” he said.
Obtaining his pilot’s license cost Blum thousands of dollars in lessons, plane rentals, travel expenses, etc., earned at his Bishop Veterinary Hospital job. “People might think it’s crazy for a kid to spend that kind of money on a hobby,” but Blum disagrees; his plans surpass mere hobby status.
“At this point, I would like to pursue my commercial and instrument ratings through an aeronautical university,” Blum said, for which he’s been saving his Grace Lutheran Church custodian earnings. Blum’s career interests include commercial airlines, theological seminary, missionary work and law enforcement. “Whatever I do, though, I am going to be an aviator.”
“I am very thankful to God, my family and my employers for the support they have given me,” Blum said. “I hit a few learning curves” but the whole experience was very rewarding. “Anyone who is able and has a desire to pursue aviation, should do so.”