Twenty-five Vanderbilt students boarded a fleet of planes, including a Cessna 172 and Tampico, for the first time as pilots. AviaDORES hosted their Discovery Day event for a second time after a strong turnout in February and high interest from the organization fair earlier this semester.
Co-founders Alexa Cordell and Riley Ferguson ran the event at the Nashville Flight Training center at the Nashville International Airport with the hopes of attracting more people to follow in their passion for flying. Both Cordell and Ferguson hold a pilot’s license and have been flying planes for several years.
“We love aviation so much and we want to make it as accessible to everyone,“ sophomore Riley Ferguson said. “We just want to spread the word and activity because we love flying.”
Any student in the club was welcome to come fly, and the club requires no experience to get involved. Trained pilots joined each student in the planes and guided them through the flight, from takeoff to landing, alongside much larger commercial jets. They pointed out all the gizmos in the cockpit, including the navigation system and magnetic compass, as well as a checklist of steps to take pre-flight.
The nearly 30 minute route took the first-time flyers from the airport to downtown Nashville and Vanderbilt before returning back. It provided for breathtaking views at upwards of 2000 feet, as many student-pilots grabbed selfies mid-flight. Some gustiness made for a slightly bumpier ride than usual, but the clear skies made for the perfect conditions, Cordell and Ferguson noted.
In the waiting room inside the airplane hangar, students sat around as they watched their fellow classmates jump into the pilot’s seat for the first time. Everybody appeared eager for their turn to fly.
“I’m a little nervous just because I have no experience or knowledge of how to fly a plane, but I think it’s going to be exciting,” freshman Serena Ainslie said pre-flight.
Before this club was founded last year, there weren’t any opportunities for students to fly through Vanderbilt. But the club’s ability to establish this event, which took some lengthy paperwork, has helped students participate in an activity they had only dreamed up before.
“I had an interest in flying because I have a couple friends who got their pilot’s licenses, but when I came to Vandy, I never thought that would be an opportunity that I would get here,” Ainslie said. “It was definitely a spur of the moment decision to sign up for Discovery Day.”