Ethan Sommers, a student in EMU at Lancaster's aviation program, poses for a photo after his first solo flight earlier this month. Students in the four-year aviation program begin flight school in their first semester and will eventually earn a bachelor's degree in leadership and organizational management, as well as several flight certifications. (Photo courtesy of Aero-Tech Services, Inc.)

First student-pilot in EMU at Lancaster’s new aviation program completes solo flight

Ethan Sommers became the first pilot to solo in the history of Eastern Mennonite University at Lancaster’s aviation program. A Lancaster, Pennsylvania resident, Sommers is a first-year student in the new leadership and organizational management bachelor’s degree program with a concentration in aviation.

By the time he graduates, Sommers will have earned a bachelor’s degree as well as private and commercial pilot certificates with an instrument rating and a flight instructor certificate. Flight training is conducted through a partnership with Lititz-based Aero-Tech Services, Inc.

Sommers soloed on Oct. 15. His flight instructor is Michael Hornberger.

Stay tuned for more on EMU at Lancaster’s first pilots!

EMU News checked in with Sommers last week about his latest accomplishment. Here’s the Q & A:

Why you are interested in aviation and when did you make the decision this was in your future?

I am interested in aviation because it is something that I got to learn and experience through flying for my family vacations. Second I made the decision that this was in my future when I went for a discovery flight through Aero-Tech back during my junior year of high school.

How did your first solo go?

My first solo experience was a little nerve racking. Only did I start feeling this way at the point that my instructor hopped out of the plane and told me to have fun. Once I was up in the air, I remembered that this was something I had done many times before, and my confidence built. Once I was up in the sky, I just thought to myself about how much fun I was having. It was an extraordinary experience.

Did you do anything special to celebrate this big step in your career?

My dad had gotten me a shirt that read “first solo flight” with a big check mark through a box. I put this shirt on after I got out of the plane and we took pictures.

Why did you choose Lancaster at EMU for your professional preparation?

I chose this route for education because for me it made sense to go to a program that is so close to home that I am still able to work and live at home. It is also the major I wanted

What are three things you’ve have most enjoyed about the program?

The biggest part of this program that I enjoy the most is the flying aspect. I find it to be so much fun to go up and fly a couple days a week. The second part is the convenience, given that it is so close to home. I’m also pleased that the degree program is offered through a faith-based organization, which is important to me.

What are your professional goals?

My professional goals are to become an airline pilot in one of the major airlines.


Discussion on “First student-pilot in EMU at Lancaster’s new aviation program completes solo flight

  1. Congratulations Ethan.

    A note from EMC history. Maybe the first person to solo in an EMC-related activity occurred in the 1960s when the EMC Flying Club owned a J-3 Piper Cub and a number of students obtained their private pilot licenses.

  2. Congratulations Ethan! I am a ’97 graduate of EMU Harrisonburg campus who was in your shoes along with another EMU ’97 graduate. Both of us were aspiring to be airline pilots and we’re flight instructing while we were also busy taking courses at EMU. I would have loved an aviation program at EMU and am so very glad they have one now. I live nearby the Lancaster County area now and am currently an A330 FO for American Airlines flying out of Philadelphia. The other ’97 alumni is a pilot for Southwest. Anyway, keep pushing towards your dreams and goals…..stay focused… looks like you have a good flight plan filed. God Bless! Oh yeah and keep the blue side up ;)

  3. Ethan I’m so proud of you. You look so much like your dad. I’m sure he’s so happy having you follow in his occupation.May you keep God as your pilot as you continue your aviation education. God Bless you.

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