Cessna Internship Fuels Senior’s Passion for Aviation
And how did you spend your summer vacation? Conor Dancy spent his with his head in the clouds—literally. The senior geology major served an internship for Cessna Aircraft Company, which tapped the Leesburg resident to promote flying and show off the new Skycatcher plane as a pilot in their Discover Flying Challenge. Dancy and seven other interns flew the single-engine planes around the country, generating interest in the sky, on the ground, and on the Internet (his handle is Patriot). Mason senior writer Buzz McClain caught the high-flying Dancy during one his few moments on terra firma.
How did Cessna find you?
A large part of this internship is social media. As we fly across the country in our Skycatchers, we are constantly tweeting, updating Facebook, posting photos, and uploading videos. Because Cessna wanted interns who were comfortable using social media, they posted this job on Facebook. When I saw the post, I decided that the job sounded like fun. I took a look at the requirements–and I met them! I applied, was interviewed a few days later, and was hired.
Your major is geology? That’s like the opposite of aviation.
While my major is geology, my passion is flying. I intend to fly professionally as a career. Rather than attending an aviation school, I decided to attend a “regular” university to get a degree in something other than flying. This gives me a fallback in case anything ever happens that causes me to be unable to fly. Geology is always something I’ve had fun with and been good at, so I decided to major in it.
You founded the Mason Aviation Club. How many members does the club have?
Though I founded the club, my term as an officer ended last year. I can’t give you an exact number, but I would estimate that there are 40 to 50 active members.
Tell us a little about the Skycatcher. Is it a trainer or a personal aircraft?
The Cessna 162 Skycatcher is a light sport aircraft, or LSA. It’s intended primarily as a two-seat trainer to replace the Cessna 152, which went out of production in 1986. But because it’s an LSA, it can be flown by sport pilots. A sport pilot is someone who just wants to fly for fun and has no intention of flying professionally or in poor weather. The Skycatcher is becoming more and more popular as a personal aircraft among sport pilots because of its stable flying characteristics, relatively high cruising speed, low operating costs, and the fact that it is built by a major aircraft company such as Cessna.
You’re covering the gorgeous American Southwest. What’s the tour like? Will it be tough to come back to campus and go to class after spending the summer in the sky?
The tour has been incredible! Most of the flying I do at home is within 75 miles of Leesburg Executive Airport, my home airport. With this internship, I’ve had the opportunity to fly halfway across the country, from Kansas to California. I’ve flown over places I’ve only ever seen on TV and have landed at airports that are on every pilot’s bucket list. I’ve flown between some of the highest peaks in North America in Colorado and have witnessed stunning desert vistas in New Mexico and Arizona. I have landed the Skycatcher at airports with a higher elevation than the altitudes where I typically fly, such as Salida, Colorado, which is at 7,523 feet. I have landed at Van Nuys airport, home to Hollywood’s biggest stars and their private jets.
This trip has been the trip of a lifetime. I can’t imagine a better way to spend the summer. It will absolutely be a challenge adjusting back to school after spending the summer traveling the country in “my own” airplane.
How often do you fly during the school year?
I fly almost every day during the school year. I work as a full-time flight instructor at Aviation Adventures, a flight school at Leesburg Executive Airport. I teach people toward various pilot certificates and ratings, and transition pilots into new aircraft. Since I became an instructor two years ago, I’ve averaged about 500 hours of flying per year, or a little under an hour and a half of flying per day. Obviously, I fly more during the summer and on the weekends and breaks, but I certainly still get my flying fix during the school week as well.
Clearly this is more than a hobby for you.
The best part of flying has to be the freedom you gain when you fly. You have the ability to travel hundreds of miles at a moment’s notice and see things in a way that no one else can. You get a whole new perspective on the world–on the scale of everything. While most people are limited to moving in two dimensions, as a pilot you have the ability to move in three.
While flying is both a physical and mental challenge, the rewards are unlimited and well worth the challenge. I have a favorite quote by Leonardo da Vinci, who understood what flying was all about hundreds of years before humans ever took flight: “When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward. For there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”
That pretty well describes the passion we pilots have for aviation. No matter how much you fly, it’s never enough. It’s a lifelong addiction that can never be fully satisfied.
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