Junior’s dreams take flight

Student pilot gears up for aviation career


As another plane veered into his flight path thousands of feet in the air, junior Evan Waldman remained calm at the controls of his plane. Photo by Kaylie Adelmen

As another plane veered into his flight path thousands of feet in the air, junior Evan Waldman remained calm at the controls of his plane. 

“We don’t know what [the other pilot] was doing,” said Waldman.“But he just was not paying attention and almost hit us.”

Waldman and his instructor quickly altered the course of their flight, steering the plane as far in the other direction as they could to avoid a collision. 

After learning about aviation in middle school from a neighbor who studied aviation management, Waldman knew he wanted to fly a plane. He began flying lessons in May 2021, and while he has flown solo, a flight instructor often accompanies him. 

Right after takeoff on a flight from Chicago Executive Airport, Waldman and his instructor encountered heavy turbulence and wind shear, which can disrupt a plane’s flight path and make a plane difficult to control. Waldman’s instructor took control and made an unexpected landing due to the weather.

“I knew we were gonna make it,” said Waldman. “It’s just not fun being bounced around in a very small plane.” 

A memorable flight for Waldman was when he took junior Keaton Zacharia flying with an instructor because Waldman performed a maneuver that felt like there was zero gravity in the plane. 

“I was screaming during that,” said Zacharia. “It was really scary because it’s a roller coaster, but there’s no track to hold you up. It’s also not too good on the stomach. So other than that, it was totally just a fun experience.”

Waldman has also flown his sister and his dad, and he looks forward to flying others once he gets his private pilot license. 

“It was really cool just to see my friend flying a plane, something you only think of professionals doing,” said Zacharia.“And to see my friend taking off and landing and turning the plane … and doing all the preflight checks as well, he just knew so much about what he was doing. He looked like an expert already.”

Waldman’s pilot training does not end after stepping out of the plane. He spends equal time, if not more, studying ground knowledge than he does in the air. Ground knowledge includes lessons on flight instruments, aerodynamics and navigation, which must be learned to obtain a pilot license. 

“The ground is harder than flying in my opinion,” said Waldman. “Knowing all the ground knowledge [is difficult] because you basically have to become a weather expert [and] a physics expert on wind gusts. There’s a lot to it.”

According to Waldman’s mom, Joey Waldman, she is happy Evan has a passion for aviation she can help him pursue. 

“When he really expressed an interest in wanting to do this as a career and it wasn’t just a little kid saying, ‘I want to be an astronaut, I want to be a president, I want to be a baseball player,’ then I was like ‘OK, let’s look into this,’” Joey Waldman said. 

Evan Waldman plans on testing to get his private pilot license once he turns 17, after which he can fly a plane less than 12,500 lbs. solo or with passengers in the United States.

He plans to pursue aviation in college and work for a commercial or cargo airline afterwards. 

“It’s awesome,” said Evan Waldman. “It’s super fun. Every day is a challenge because you’re doing more difficult things as you go on.”