CHS grad pursues a high flying future

Michael Gonzalez to participate in Aviation Career Day

What: Aviation Career Day

When: Saturday, Sept. 11, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Grove Field Airport, 632 N.E. 267th Ave., Camas

Admission: Free

Contact: 281-8720 or visit www.cwaagrovefield.org

What: Aviation Career Day

When: Saturday, Sept. 11, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Grove Field Airport, 632 N.E. 267th Ave., Camas

Admission: Free

Contact: 281-8720 or visit www.cwaagrovefield.org

Michael Gonzalez remembers when he first became interested in airplanes. He was 8 years old when he met an F16 fighter pilot in Arizona.

Years later as a junior at Camas High School, Gonzalez applied for a Camas-Washougal Aviation Association scholarship and flew with pilot Doug Anderson in a Piper J3Cub.

“Ever since then, my mind was made up – this was something I wanted to do,” he said.

That flight to Mount St. Helens, followed by meeting additional pilots at Grove Field Airport, further “planted the seed” of interest in an aviation career, Gonzalez said.

While attending CHS and Clark College, he was a sales clerk at Lutz Hardware, in downtown Camas. Gonzalez earned his private pilot license, with Dave Luse as his flight instructor.

Gonzalez was awarded a scholarship by the CWAA to help pay the cost of college textbooks. After attending Clark, he earned a bachelor’s degree in flight technology at Central Washington University, in Ellensburg. Gonzalez graduated with honors in June.

He is a flight instructor, employed by Midstate Aviation, at the Ellensburg Airport. Midstate has a contract, to provide flight instruction for the CWU ground school.

In addition to a certified flight instructors certificate with instrument rating, Gonzalez has earned a commercial certificate and a multi-engine rating.

He describes the CWAA and its members as his “aviation family.”

“Everybody that is part of CWAA, and other pilots who fly out of Grove Field, have been so willing to help me,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t think many people my age get that small town airport experience. Everybody is willing to help and be so generous.

“The support alone has been phenomenal,” he added. “Most of the pilots and people involved with the CWAA and the airport have been mentors in some way.”

Aviation Career Day

Gonzalez plans to participate in the CWAA Aviation Career Day, Saturday, Sept. 11.

Recruiters from CWU, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and the U.S. Air Force and Naval academies are expected to attend.

There will be $20 airplane rides for children and teens, as well as $6 deluxe hamburger lunches available to purchase. An Umpqua Bank ice cream truck will provide free treats.

Gonzalez said the event could be a great opportunity for students who aspire to have aviation careers, and he wants to encourage future pilots.

“It’s a lot of hard work, but if it’s something you want, don’t give up,” Gonzalez said. “Work hard, and you will achieve your goals. Get that connection going with CWAA and pilots everywhere. Aviation is a small world. Get your name out there.”

During the summer of 2009, he was a flight operations intern for Horizon Air, at Portland International Airport.

“Take advantage of every opportunity you get – whether it’s an internship, going out to lunch with a pilot who knows somebody, meeting someone at an airport or flying,” Gonzalez said. “Every little bit can help you out.”

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