Student on cloud nine


Photo Courtesy of Caleb Chang

Chang attempts to master a landing during his solo flight test in January.

As the engine starts up, he straps himself into his cockpit seat and surrenders to the feeling of weightlessness as the plane takes off. Peering down from the window, he sees the wide expanse of rooftops and a rush of awe fills him when he recognizes Diamond Bar High School’s football stadium.

Taking his first step toward becoming an airline pilot, DBHS junior Caleb Chang recently received a private pilot license to fly a single-engine airplane after two months of intense preparations.

“I always wanted to be a pilot, but never really knew how to start, so when I was given the opportunity I was just like ‘I’m going to start’,” Chang said.

Junior Jackson Lennon, who knew about Chang’s desire to fly, introduced him to Bob Velker, a manager at the Chino Airport. Velker provided Chang with a tour of the airport before introducing him to Airlines International Aviation. After talking with some people there who were also trying to become pilots, Chang decided to start flight training.

From then on, Chang spent around six hours in a coffee shop each day learning material such as aerodynamics, weather and technical details about planes. After he completed his self study, he started to take flying lessons with AIA in preparation for a checkride, the Federal Aviation Administration examination.

“On my first lesson, I was already in the air flying with my instructor,” Chang said. “I was pretty nervous, but the instructor did most of it. But when we were up in the air, he let me have the controls. [I was] really nervous like I didn’t know what to do. I was holding on really tight, and after, my hands were really sore. It was pretty scary.”

Although landing was one of the hardest techniques for Chang to master, he was able to overcome this challenge through practice. He was soon cleared by his instructor to take his solo flight in January for his license. As part of his test, he had to explain every detail about the aircraft on ground while performing different types of takeoffs, maneuvers, emergency procedures and more in the air.

Now, Chang spends his free time on Tuesdays, Thursdays and the weekends heading to the Chino Airport to practice flying.

“[My favorite part is] seeing the world from a different perspective because it’s really cool. I always fly above Diamond Bar High School,” Chang said. “Seeing Diamond Bar High School from the top, it’s really different than looking up at the sky like ‘oh I was just flying up there’.”

Currently, Chang is looking to obtain an instrument rating, complex-plane rating and a commercial license, which will allow him to allow him to fly in the clouds, fly more complex planes and fly anywhere.

After obtaining all of them, he plans to become a Certified Flight Instructor and work towards obtaining the 1,500 hours of air time required to work as an airlines pilot.

“Just being around the airport is amazing and actually teaching people how to fly would be even more amazing,” Chang said.