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Phillip Picard Profile

Phillip Picard ‘17 sat in his plane’s cabin, with the instruments up in his face. He felt as if everything was up very close, but it wasn’t too tight. Just enough room to reach all the knobs comfortably, strapped in enough so he could hardly notice the turbulence as he moved with the plane. Suddenly, while he and his instructor were in the air, there was a loud tapping noise. Worried that it was the engine giving out, Picard quickly maneuvered a 180 degree turn to complete an emergency landing.

“We were making sure to stay near fields in case the engine decided to quit,” Picard said. “It was only after we had landed that we found out the cap of the fuel tank actually came off,” he said.  “It is attached to a little chain and apparently happens a lot.” Most people would have been terrified in a similar situation. Not Phillip.

“I’d say a good 50 percent of the training is what to do if something goes wrong, so you kind of just have it memorized, you kind of just know what to do without even thinking about it,” Picard said. He has been flying for three years now, and has completed over 80 flights and 200 landings. This does not keep him from getting nervous while he is in the air, though.

“We are nervous, but nervous about different things. We are not nervous about crashing, or bad things happening, we are more nervous about talking to air traffic control over the radio, or not messing up,” Picard said. “It’s kind of the same thing, like if you are driving a car then you are not nervous about crashing either, because when you are driving, you are in charge and know what’s happening.”

Many people are not up for the responsibility that being a pilot entails. However, Phillip has wanted to fly since he was young.

“I don’t really know when I started wanting to fly, it’s just kind of a thing since before I can remember I have always wanted to do,” Picard said.

Phillip has lots of experience of flying on his own. He has his student pilot’s license, which allows him to fly by himself, and has taken trips all around the state, touching down in towns like Mt. Pleasant and Saginaw. He is working on getting his private pilot’s license, which would allow him to take passengers along with him. At this point, he only needs to log a couple more landings at different airports.

Flying a plane and operating all the knobs and switches alone may seem daunting to some, but the complicated system no longer phases Picard.

“It’s pretty simple once you have it down, like if you look at a keyboard, it has a lot of buttons too, but most of them are very similar and related,” Picard said. “It’s the same with a plane. All the switches are related and organized, and are pretty simple in what they do.”

Though he has the controls memorized, he knows that he can’t always rely on them. Picard faced a difficult decision when his alternator malfunctioned during one of his flights.

“We had flown all the way to Mt. Pleasant, and the alternator broke down, so we were running on battery power,” Picard said. This usually would not have been a problem, if it hadn’t been at night.

“[The battery] has about thirty minutes, and it was about an hour long flight, so we didn’t want to have to fly it back and have the lights fail halfway there and then not see anything, because that would not have been very fun,” Picard said. He and his instructor ended up spending the night in Mt. Pleasant and flying home in the morning.

Picard says that these glitches are more common than some might think.

“There is almost always some minor thing that’s not working either a radio that is making weird noises or one of the gages flicking around a little bit,” Piccard said. But these quirks do not bother him. Piccard does not think having a big, fancy plane would be any fun.

“I kind of like a simple plane, bare minimum stuff, so you can just focus on the flying. I don’t want a plane to fly itself, I want to fly it,” Piccard said. His love for flying has kept him in the air, and taught him life lessons he can use on the ground.

“There is no such thing as being overly careful. I mean maybe there is, but it’s better to be overly cautious and miss something fun, than go do something you think is fun, and it ends up being really bad,” Piccard said.


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