Bald Eagle Area teen balances school, sports and a new pilot license

Most teenagers spend time studying for their driver’s test, but high schooler Peter VanCise flew solo in a plane before driving alone in a car.

When not in school or at football or soccer practice, the 17-year-old Bald Eagle Area School District senior spends his time flying planes at the Bellefonte Airport. After earning his private pilot license this past summer, VanCise is now working toward his goal of joining the United States Air Force.

“I was really happy and relieved when I passed,” VanCise said. “I was kind of worried about not passing, but once it was over and I got home, I was really happy.”

VanCise took and passed his flight test in August, but his dream and training for it began much sooner.

Last year, VanCise began taking private hour-long flying lessons at the airport where he would fly with supervision. Much like learning the rules of the road before earning a driver’s permit, VanCise had to take a written exam in Harrisburg where he was tested on the rules of the sky, having to learn specific regulations and laws.

“The instructor would basically just show me how to do stuff, and then I would do it,” VanCise said.

His childhood career aspirations didn’t change much as VanCise got older. When he was younger, he said flying with airlines like Delta were always fun and made him want to become a pilot when he grew up.

“I really enjoyed it, so when I was younger, I thought I could be a pilot,” he said.

Peter VanCise has flown twice since receiving his pilot license in August; he’s taken each of his parents for a ride. VanCise family Photo provided

Bellefonte Airport Manager John Elnitski said if an individual who has a private pilot license applies to work for an airline company, some companies will pay for additional training — an expense that can be costly without additional aid.

“If you show up to the airlines with a private pilots license, it shows that you have the ability to fly an airplane,” Elnitski said. “They’re now paying to run you all the way through to be an airline pilot because there’s such a shortage.”

The airport training focuses on 14- through 18-year old students, but individuals are welcome to take lessons at any age. Some airlines, Elnitski said, are forming their own flight schools to help with training and have made programs more affordable.

“Of course, they tie you up in a loan system, so if you quit or leave for some reason, you have to pay off your training,” Elnitski said. “But if you make it all the way through, then they pay all that training.”

VanCise has no intention of changing his course with dreams of attending the Air Force Academy after high school.

“I don’t know anyone else my age who has their pilot license,” VanCise said.

Marley Parish reports on local government for the Centre Daily Times. She grew up in Slippery Rock and graduated from Allegheny College.