Bleyd Valleskey following his first solo flight in late November. 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 and several flight certifications. (Photo courtesy of Aero-Tech Services, Inc.)

First solo flights with EMU at Lancaster student-pilots: Meet Bleyd Valleskey

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Bleyd Vallesky is a first-year student in EMU Lancaster’s leadership and organizational management (LOM) bachelor’s degree program with a concentration in aviation. The Lititz, Pa. native flew solo for the first time on Nov. 27 – an experience he called “indescribable.” His flight instructor is Olivia Burkhart.

Vallesky’s journey to aviation all started when, as a little tyke, he got caught sneaking a peek into an airplane cockpit. Vallesky writes more below.

What interests you about aviation? What led to you pursuing this career path?

When I think about a career that is “interesting” to me, it would have to be hands-on, and aviation is literally only that! When I was a kid I was boarding a Delta commercial airliner, and was walking past the cockpit when I tried to peek in, as any curious kid would’ve. The captain caught me, and instead of shunning me for my curiosity, invited me to take the first officer’s seat. There was so much information that my little brain couldn’t handle it, and I could merely stare around in awe. 

When it came time to leave he gave me a pair of wings – not a plastic one, a genuine metal pair of wings. To this I owe him my gratitude. As caring as he was and how enthusiastic he was about his job made me realize that this is the career I wished to pursue. 

Why did you choose EMU for this leg of your education? 

It’s close to home, and it’s really small so you can get personal with your professors, and fellow students, especially upperclassmen. Campus resources are more open, and it’s much cheaper than most other options in Pennsylvania. 

What was your first solo experience like? Anything like you expected? 

Nothing in the world could compare to the adrenaline that pumped through my veins as I climbed into the cockpit, but as soon as my wheels left the ground, it felt like slow motion: the pure euphoria I felt as the sun shone through my windshield, my wings tilted to the left as I began my downwind turn, and seeing my friends and family on the ground, I knew that this was something that will remain in my heart until I am longer alive.

Did you do anything special to celebrate the flight?

I went out and celebrated with friends at a sushi place, and then stayed the night at their house. Knowing I had my friends backing me and cheering me on, I knew there was no way I could have failed!

What have you most enjoyed about the program so far? Why? 

When I heard about college I was nervous and scared. I mean, who wouldn’t be? After all it’s supposedly a massive campus filled with hazing, classes are hard, and you barely have time for your own activities. When I got to EMU, I was nervous at first but, when you are surrounded with people who have the same goals as you, and are trying to pursue the same career as you, making friends becomes a lot easier. 

However, the most enjoyable part of the campus is how accessible the professors are: always willing to talk, email, or even do a one-on-one Zoom call if you have any lengthy questions. Almost every professor is a pilot too, and had to go through almost the same training we are going through. Being surrounded by so many professional aviators is reassuring when it comes to understanding and being successful in my classes.

What are your professional goals after graduation? 

My goal after graduation is to first pursue a career with the state police as I finish up the rest of my hours required for airlines. Once I’ve completed them, I will move on and fly commercial from out of the country.

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