Aviation in my life

Taking to the sky is a life changing event for many people who enjoy their first flight. Flying is a unique experience among people, for we were destined to walk the land, yet through hard work and creativity we finally were able to take in a view of the earth once seen by few. Due to the romanticism and challenges of flight, it has created a small community of aviators that immediately feels at home whenever around each other. This special group of people is willing to share their love and enjoyment of flight, and encourage paths that lead to a motivated and fulfilled life. The LeRoy Homer Foundation belongs to this special community, and gives the opportunity of a lifetime: to earn your pilots license and join the community of aviators.

I became interested in aviation at a young age. My grandfather was an Eastern Airlines mechanic, and he built a plywood aircraft in his back yard complete with old aircraft instruments. He would explain how everything worked, and I was hooked. Once in high school I read everything I could about airplanes, and obtained a manual labor job at a helicopter hangar. This was my first experience with the aviation community, and I would pick pilot’s brains and occasionally go on short maintenance flights. I desperately wanted to take flight lessons, however my family could never afford it. Then the Homer Foundation blessed me with their scholarship, and my life was forever changed. The summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school was the best in my life. I flew almost four times a week, loving every minute of it. I earned my license on my seventeenth birthday, and finally was a pilot.

Being a private pilot motivated me even more to pursue a career in aviation. Obtaining my license enabled me to get a job at my flight school, which in turn led me to meet very interesting and influential people in my life. I found that I not only enjoyed flying airplanes, but I was very interested in their design as well. I also was able to listen to a variety of “shop stories” about naval aviation, which was something I had always been interested in. This led me to study aeronautical engineering at Purdue University, and enter the Navy ROTC program. At Purdue being a pilot introduced me to several of my closest friends, as we would stay up late on the weekends talking about flying and airplanes. Having my pilot’s license has also been an enormous advantage in aeronautical engineering, enabling me to visualize aeronautical concepts through experience, rather than only a textbook. In the aeronautical engineering school I have also found that same love of flight found among pilots, and this has helped me as I struggled through long hours of studying for endless exams.

I plan to graduate next year with my degree and a naval commission, and I hope to be selected for naval aviation. None of this would have been possible without the Homer Foundation. Their scholarship motivated me and opened doors in ways I would not have thought possible. I have found what I want to do with my life, a blessed quality that has its foundations in that memorable summer when I first earned my wings. I am eternally grateful to the foundation to their generosity, and it is my ambition to one day change another teen’s life as they changed mine.

Richard Valenta

One Comment on “Aviation in my life

  1. Hi Richard, It’s been awhile since you’ve posted this blog so I’m not sure if you’ll get this comment. My 13yr old is very interested in aviation and I was hoping you had some information as to how I can get her more involved at such a young age. I’ve been looking online and around our Austin area but there doesn’t seem to be much out there given her age. Any info you have would be appreciated. Thank you! -Azita

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