Will Stover, 18, earned a Ray Aviation Scholarship from the local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association. He plans to attend Eastern Mennonite University in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which offers an aviation program. He has already earned his private pilot license and is working to add an instrument rating at Aero-Tech Services, the flight school partnering with EMU Lancaster. (Courtesy photo)

Lititz Record Express: Warwick student earns scholarship to EMU aviation program

This article is republished with permission from the Lititz (Pa.) Record Express.

Ever since Will Stover was a little boy, he dreamed of taking to the skies and flying a plane.

“I think the first time I ever went to the Community Days air show at Lancaster County Airport, I thought, ‘that’s what I want to do someday’,” said Stover.

And that’s exactly what he did. Now 18 and a senior at Warwick High School, Stover already has his private pilot license and has his sights set on pursuing flight training at Aero-Tech at the Lancaster County Airport, while attending Eastern Mennonite University at Lancaster to pursue a bachelor’s degree in leadership and organizational management with an aviation concentration in the fall.

“My goal is to be a commercial pilot,” said Stover, the son of Catherine and Lynn Stover of Lititz. “My family is very supportive of my plans to be a pilot. They are very excited for me.”

Learn more about EMU’s aviation program!

When Stover was around three years old, his parents took him to the air show at Lancaster airport and watched as their son was fascinated by the planes. It was more than just a little boy’s passing fancy. As he grew older, it was clear that their son was smitten with planes and not just the idea of riding in a plane. He wanted to learn to fly one himself.

“My mom’s family lived in Chicago, so I loved flying there to visit them. I wanted to know how the plane worked. I loved being in the air and seeing the world below,” recalled Stover.

Starting when he was around five years old, he would spend hours on a flight simulator on the family computer. The simulator showed what the inside of a cockpit was like and allowed him to simulate a flight from take-off to landing.

His father realized that his son was serious about flying a real plane, and as Stover got older, his father asked if he wanted to take flying lessons at Lancaster Airport.

That’s when Stover’s training began in earnest. He started taking flight lessons when he was 14 at Aero-Tech at Lancaster Airport. By the time he was 18, he had earned his private pilot’s license. To get there, he needed to pass his Third Class medical exam administered by an FAA Aviation Medical Examiner, complete the Cessna online training course, pass a written test on aeronautical knowledge, log at least 40 hours of flight time, and pass an FAA Flight Check for the Private Pilot Certification.

“I actually flew a plane before I drove a car,” said Stover, who wishes he could afford his own plane.

After earning his private pilot certificate, he next wants to add an Instrument Rating to his pilot certificate, which will afford him the ability to fly in or above the clouds, without the limitations of needing to be in visual meteorological conditions. It will also allow him to fly the aircraft with a greater degree of precision no matter the weather conditions. Stover was working toward that more advanced certification as he earned money working at Penn Cinemas. It was no coincidence that he was working right across from the airport while working to advance his pilot’s certification. Then the COVID-19 shutdown temporarily grounded his aspirations, when movie theater was closed to crowds.

His diligence paid off. Last spring he applied to the Experimental Aircraft Association, through the EAA Chapter 122 in New Cumberland, an international organization dedicated to the dynamic world of flight. Founded in 1953, EAA offers aviationrelated activities on a local, regional, and national level.

In June 2021, Stover was awarded a $6,000 Ray Aviation Scholarship through EAA to cover flight training expenses. As Chief Flight Instructor at Aero-Tech Zach Hurst noted, he was pleased to write Stover’s recommendation for the scholarship. Hurst has monitored the teen’s flight progress in recent months and sees great potential for the aspiring commercial pilot.

“Will is a dedicated student and he puts in the effort to achieve his flight training goals,” Hurst noted. “We actually have several high schools students each year who earn pilot certificates. However, far more young people start training and eventually discover it takes perseverance and commitment to studying to actually achieve the certification. Will was an excellent candidate for a scholarship because he had invested his own time and financial resources to start training and so it was obvious that he would have the motivation to complete private pilot training.”

“We were looking for young people like Will,” said Jeff Probasco, head of the EAA Chapter 122 Ray Aviation Scholarship Committee. “His flight instructor recommended Will and he just shined. He is highly motivated and has achieved so much way ahead of schedule.”

The scholarship will enable Stover to upgrade his private license with an instrument rating. Then he will be able to go on to gain the training necessary to obtain his Commercial License in either single or multi-engine airplanes. He was very excited to find the program close to home at Eastern Mennonite University’s Lancaster campus where he will pursue a 4-year bachelor’s degree in Leadership and Organizational Management with an Aviation Concentration. He will be doing his flight training at Lancaster Airport.

“There were a number of different ways I could have pursued becoming a commercial pilot, such as the Air Force, but this was a more direct way to get out there,” said Stover. “There is a global shortage of pilots. There is a desperate need for qualified pilots by all the major airlines. Which is where I want to be.” Following his dreams since he was a young boy, Stover feels he has the right stuff.

“There are a few things that make a good pilot. You have to be cool under pressure, be motivated, undertake your training with a real commitment, have thorough technical knowledge, and you have to believe in yourself,” said Stover. “This is what I have wanted to do my whole life.”