“You’re flying today! Climb on over into the pilot’s seat,” said University of Director of Flight Operations Gary Whaley to Rylee Berry.
It was Berry’s first day of flight school, and when she heard those words, she admits thinking, “What in the heck have I gotten myself into?”
After only a 30 minute ground lesson, Berry was up in the air and forever hooked. “In reality, the only way to learn to fly is by flying,” she said.
“Don’t get me wrong, there is a good deal of studying involved to be able to pass the required written test and check ride,” she said. “However, Mr. Gary does a wonderful job at making his students feel prepared and confident for both.”
Berry is a senior elementary education major at the University of Mount Olive. She also recently decided to fulfill a life goal by enrolling in Trojan Aviation, the University’s flight school.
“I chose to get my pilot’s license because of all the great opportunities that aviation will bring to my future,” she said. “I cannot wait for the day that I can fly my friends and family on trips and vacations. Through aviation, I hope to have the opportunity to meet new people, make connections, and always keep reaching for new heights.”
When Berry is up in the air, all of her cares seem to vanish. “Aviation has been a tremendous stress relief,” she said. Though the in-flight experience is calming, Berry notes that for her, the real thrill occurs on the runway. “Whenever we taxi to the end of the runway and line up for takeoff, I feel this surge of emotions,” she said. “Some of those emotions are fear, excitement, and joy. Meanwhile, I have to think of all the proper procedures and numbers that are necessary for a successful takeoff.”
Berry is on track to fly solo in the very near future and she is expected to obtain her pilot’s license by the end of August. She highly recommends Trojan Aviation. “Flying is something that people either love or fear. You don’t know until you have tried it,” she said. “For the students who are scared, a great mentor once told me something that I think about every time I step into an airplane, and that is ‘Airplanes are meant to fly.’”
Gary Whaley intends to teach as many people as possible the art of flying. He indicated that students in Trojan Aviation can currently concentrate on three areas… private license, instrument rating, and commercial license.
“There are a lot of people that have the dream of flying, but have never had the opportunity,” Whaley said. “Our flight school is a great way for them to do that. Rylee Berry is a perfect example!”
Beyond flying, Berry hopes to help her own students learn new and exciting things. The Duplin County native, is expected to graduate from UMO with her bachelor’s degree in elementary education in December. She aspires to teach kindergarten, because she feels she has a more prominent connection with younger children. She also plans to seek her master’s degree in school administration.
Whether in the air or in the classroom, Berry is sure to soar. With a zest for life and adventure, she readily admits, “I have fun in everything I do, and I believe a ‘glass half full’ view on life will always get me closer to my goals.”
Berry is the daughter of Jon and Libby Berry of Kenansville.