Aviation Program Fuels Dreams

BRET GUTIERREZ
El Vaquero Staff Writer

“Anyone can learn to fly,” said GCC aviation department chief pilot Alan Frazier. “You can start without any knowledge of flying and in two years be prepared to fly an airplane.”

This may seem a little unbelievable to most, but it truly is a reality, Frazier said.

For 50 percent less of the cost of attending a private pilot school, GCC students can obtain all of the necessary preparation for obtaining a private pilot’s license.

The ground training is done on campus, while the flight training is done at Whiteman Airport in Pacoima. All flight training is done using a Cessna 172. The school is in the process of buying a second plane.
Lab courses are required to prepare students for such things as hypoxia, which is a condition that occurs at high altitudes.

“It slows down our reaction time and causes blurred vision or dizziness.” He said hypoxia symptoms are different for everyone, but “everyone experiences it in some way”

The on-campus ground training program prepares students to pass Federal Aviation Administration private pilot, instrument rating and commercial pilot knowledge and practical knowledge examinations.

The classes include training in basic aeronautics, aerodynamics, meteorology and aerospace physiology.

There are also classes on in-flight radio procedures and flight regulations. Because much of this must be learned before getting into a plane, the department has two flight simulators on campus. GCC and Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut are the only community colleges in Southern California that have complete flight programs, Frazier said.

Obviously, navigation, the art or science of locating the position and plotting the course of aircraft, is an indispensable aspect of flying. So, the department has a class focused entirely on the subject. Another course is dedicated to radio navigation and instrument procedures.

Frazier explained how the program at GCC got started. In 1942, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government began a program called the Civilian Pilot Program to create a pool of people trained as pilots in anticipation of a long war. Glendale Community College was chosen as a site for this program. It has been here ever since.

Frazier said his childhood attraction to flying began when he worked at the local airport in his hometown in Tennessee.

“I started out sweeping hangers just to be around it all. Almost all pilots, if you talk to them, started out the same way.”

He said the most rewarding part of his job is to see students who know nothing about flying find careers in the field. “When I see them later and they are smiling, and they say they love what they are doing, that makes me feel good, that makes me happy.”