Most 14- and 15-year-olds can’t wait until they get their driver’s license. Michael Barnosky, a freshman at Cedaredge High School, has set his sights on a loftier goal — his pilot’s license. At the age of 16, Michael plans to have his private pilot license in hot air balloons. He’ll add airplane ratings as soon as he’s old enough, with the hope of qualifying for a private pilot single engine license at the minimum age of 18. From there, the sky’s the limit.
Michael is currently training with his parents to qualify for his license in hot air balloons. The Barnoskys own a Cameron Z90 balloon which they launch just outside their front door.
“If the winds are perfect, you can go straight up and back down, or you can maneuver so you end up where you started,” Michael explained. “Otherwise you use a chase vehicle.”
Residents living north of Cedaredge are accustomed to watching the Barnoskys’ colorful hot air balloon sail gracefully across the sky, and are generally very understanding when the balloon descends into their Coalby Canyon pastures.
When he’s flying under his parents’ supervision, Michael practices the basic flight maneuvers which will be required during an FAA check ride — he climbs at a set rate, stays at a given altitude in flight, and descends at a given rate to another given altitude, keeping the balloon at that level for a certain length of time. He also has to take a written test to gauge his knowledge of hot air balloons and the principles which govern their flight.
During the fall break, he spent time duplicating those principles with a candle and a plastic bag — an assignment for an Experimental Aircraft Association program for aspiring pilots.
Michael was one of just 21 recipients nationwide of an AeroScholars Russell T. McFarlane Scholarship, which fully funds his participation in the award-winning EAA AeroScholars program for the fall 2008 semester. The curriculum entails online course work and written tests. Flight training continues in the second semester, and covers all the elements of ground school Michael will need to know to pass FAA’s written test for private pilots. The EAA AeroScholars program is supported by the Federal Aviation Administration, Civil Air Patrol, the National Association of Flight Instructors and the Thomas Wathen Foundation.
Upon completion of the full course, Michael will have earned six college credits, recognized nationally, and any high school credit allowed by Delta County Joint School District.
Because his dad has been a pilot for 25 years, Michael has been flying since he was just two months old. One of his first memories is holding the yoke in the cockpit of his dad’s plane, at the age of 3 or 4. “My feet didn’t even reach the end of the seat, but I remember it really moved me toward aviation as a career,” Michael said.
In the years since, he and his parents, Jim and Sue Barnosky, have taken advantage of Jim’s benefits as an Alaska Airlines pilot and flown to London, Chile, and most states in the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii.
When his feet are on the ground, Michael plays trombone for the Cedaredge High School band, helps out his folks on their small orchard, and flies a slow stick remote control airplane. He’s planning to test his engineering skills by putting skis on his plane for the winter. He loves anything associated with aviation, including model rockets and Science Olympiad, in which he and his partner, Cody Wieben, won state two years in a row with their balloon launch glider. Now that he’s in high school, Michael plans to share his winning strategies with the Cedaredge middle schoolers. He plays with his “indestructible” dog Sarge, who has survived an attack by a deer and several run-ins with cars, and competes with the Delta Barracudas swim team. In the spring he plans to join the Delta High School swim team.
Michael is also a senior airman in the Montrose Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. Cadets between the ages of 12 and 18, like Michael, do a lot of drilling and marching while taking courses in leadership, moral leadership and aeronautics. During orientation flights, they observe basic flight maneuvers such as turns and banks. When the Civil Air Patrol is called out on search and rescue missions, the cadets help man the radios.
These activities, together with an academic courseload which includes math and science, have Michael well on his way to achieving his career goal as a commercial airline pilot.
After graduation, Michael hopes to attend one of the military academies or Emory-Riddle Aeronautical University, which has campuses in Arizona or Florida. He plans to major in aeronautical or aerospace engineering, then fly the 787 Dreamliner which is just now coming off the assembly line at Boeing. The first flight of this highly fuel-efficient plane is expected to take place later this year, an event Michael will be watching closely as he pictures himself in the captain’s seat of the most anticipated plane in Boeing’s history.
After retirement — to give you a sense of Michael’s long-ranging vision — he says he’ll go to work for Boeing or one of its partners, like Rolls Royce or General Electric.