This past school year, Gibson Ek High School student Noah Kang saw his dreams take flight, quite literally. For years, Kang had hoped to become a pilot and this spring, he earned his private pilot’s license.
“I had always wanted to fly, but I didn’t know how to get there,” he recalled. “When I was 5 years old, I ‘caught the bug,’ and (my family) was like, ‘Stop talking about aviation!’” At the time, Kang said, they thought he was more likely to become a doctor, computer scientist or engineer someday. After elementary, Kang attended Pine Lake Middle School, but wasn’t loving it. Gibson Ek’s smaller community appealed to him, so he applied and was accepted for the 2019-2020 school year.
Attending Gibson Ek allowed him the chance to also take part in the Museum of Flight’s Private Pilot Ground School, an intensive three-week course. Unfortunately, the pandemic grounded Kang and others for a year, but on June 22, 2021, he was able to take his first flight with Rainier Flight Service.
“The wheels left the ground and – nothing was the same after that,” he said. Under the tutelage of his instructors, Kang learned maneuvers such as turns around a point, “S” turns over a road, steep turns, how to enter a traffic pattern and more. Just a couple of months later, he was ready for his first solo flight. His instructor asked Kang to perform three “touch and go” landings, then declared him ready to solo. That first flight filled him with joy, excitement and exhilaration, Kang said.
His favorite parts of flying are the scenery and flying at night. After putting in the required number of hours and completing all other components, he earned his private pilot’s license in May.
With that accomplishment checked off, Kang now has plans to earn his instrument rating, commercial certificate, instructor certificate, multi-engine certificate and airline transport certificate. Ultimately, he said he’s interested in flying for an airline, perhaps working as a flight instructor on the side.
Kang is now an intern at Rainier Flight Service. When his senior year starts this fall, he will continue learning through the aeronautical science pathway with the Museum of Flight.
“Noah’s accomplishment is an incredible example of how a student can take their passions, interests, and dreams and pursue these to learn deeply, work with mentors in our community, and meet high school requirements,” Gibson Ek Principal Julia Bamba said. “While Noah has the opportunity to learn outside of the classroom to earn his private pilot license, while on campus, he learns through collaboration and guidance with his advisor and takes opportunities to share his knowledge with others, even co-teaching a course with an advisor on aviation. … This is a perfect example of a student making the most of our personalized project-based learning and our internship program!”
Asked how his family feels about his career path now, Kang said, “They support this passion!” In fact, he said, he and his dad were planning a trip together, with Noah in the pilot’s seat.