HHS graduate captains national qualifying flight team

By Tamie Meck

A recent Hotchkiss High School graduate was one of a dozen members of the Colorado Northwestern Community College flight team that recently qualified for national competition.

Will Drbohlav captained the CNCC team that placed second at the annual National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA) Region 1 Intercollegiate Flying Competition held Oct. 7-14 at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. The placing qualifies CNCC for the NIFA national competition scheduled for next April 30-May 5 at Terre Haute International Airport in Terre Haute, Ind.

"It's pretty exciting," said Drbohlav. It's been a few years since the team qualified for nationals.

The NIFA competition is based on both ground and flight testing. Students must demonstrate knowledge of FAA flight rules, aircraft recognition, preflight inspection, knowledge of simulated flight, and cross country flight planning. Flying Cessna 172s they are tested in navigation and landing, and compete in a message drop, which Drbohlav describes as dropping a message container from an aircraft, with the objective of coming as close to a target as possible.

Out of about 70 pilots, Drbohlav earned the Top Pilot award, based on total team points scored by individual pilots. That's also exciting for both him and the school, since the title is usually won by the Air Force Academy, said Drbohlav.

CNCC also won the overall Safety Award.

Drbohlav is the son of Matthew and Rebecca Drbohlav of Hotchkiss and was valedictorian of the HHS class of 2016. He is now in his second year of studying aviation at CNCC.

Drbohlav said he discovered aviation at a very young age. When the family would go on vacation, he looked forward to flying. For his 13th birthday, his dad gave him a flight lesson with family friend Tracy Cheatham, a flight instructor at the Crawford Airport. He's been flying ever since.

On graduation day Drbohlav told the DCI he earned money for flying lessons by working odd jobs and summer jobs. He also had a little help from his dad, "Which I'm very thankful for."

By the time he graduated he'd earned his recreational pilot's license and was able to fly solo, allowing him to enter CNCC as a second-year student. He currently has about 200 hours of flight time and since starting college has earned his private pilot's license and an instrument rating. He hopes to become an instructor at CNCC, and to one day be a commercial airline pilot.