Hopkinsville firefighter first to take solo flight in Austin Peay’s new aviation science program
(Posted June 22, 2020)
Early Monday morning, Ryan Erb sat behind the controls of an Austin Peay Guimbal Cabri G2 helicopter at the Clarksville Regional Airport and eased the craft off the ground.
In doing so, the Hopkinsville, Kentucky, firefighter became the first student to fly solo in Austin Peay State University’s new aviation science program, which launched last year as the state’s first helicopter flight school that awards bachelor’s degrees.
The program’s director, Charles W. Weigandt, announced the news in an email to APSU President Alisa White: “Today marked a major milestone for the APSU aviation program. Mr. Ryan Erb completed his first solo flight.”
Other students in Erb’s class – Rotor-Wing Private Pilot Lab I – will take their solo flights soon, accumulating 18 hours of flight during the class. By the time they earn their bachelor’s degrees, they’ll have had more than 165 hours in flight.
Erb discussed the program and what it’s meant to him during a recent interview.
“It’s been challenging,” he said. “There’s definitely nothing easy about trying to fly a helicopter. I’ve always been told there’s no such thing as a natural-born helicopter pilot.
“I’ve learned a lot,” he added. “And there’s a lot to learn.”
In Weigandt’s email to the president, he said, “I congratulate Mr. Erb and his instructor, Mr. Donald Stanton, for their hard work leading to this momentous accomplishment.”
The next flight lab for the students will come this fall when they get 19 ½ hours of flight time, including 4 ½ hours flying solo.
With the bachelor’s degree, students can pursue careers including flight instruction, aerial tourism and charter operations.
“I feel like a lot of people still in the military are looking for this kind of avenue,” said Erb’s classmate, Kristina Fish. “And I think it would benefit a lot of people to just know that this is a huge, awesome resource that they can use right here, and they can start doing it while they’re still in the military.”
To learn more
For more about aviation science at Austin Peay, go to https://www.apsu.edu/engineering-technology/aviation-science.php.
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