Airport a place where young dreams can take flight |

Airport a place where young dreams can take flight

Gabriel Tonozzi

I became interested in flying as a career after having the opportunity to fly out of Glenwood Springs airport with Clem Kopf, a local pilot and my mentor.

The experience of being able to take off in my hometown and go see other places was exhilarating. From that day on I wanted to be a pilot.

I started talking to other local pilots, hanging out at the airport, watching airplanes and feeding on the knowledge and experiences of more seasoned pilots, many of whom owned airplanes based in Glenwood.

Unfortunately, I never really believed that I could actually become a pilot. It was a dream that seemed impossible because my parents and I could not afford flight lessons.

I had done research on how expensive flying was and knew that I needed to find the best deals in flight training if I was going to make it happen. I decided to spend a summer working on my private pilot’s license and found an instructor at Glenwood Aviation. The hourly rental rates and instructor fees were the most competitive I found on the Western Slope.

Since the airport is close to town it was easy to be there within minutes. I was able to work out deals at the airport and through the hard work of my flight instructor I was able to get my private pilot’s license at a reasonable price in only two months.

The experience that I gained flying out of the valley paved the way for me to attend Metropolitan State College of Denver, majoring in aviation technology. I was able to get grants and student loans because of my prior flight time.

I realized early on that the mountain flying time I had in Glenwood made me a better pilot, solidified sound judgment, and inspired me to move forward with my career. I would come home for the summers and work and fly at Glenwood airport, enjoying the challenges that the area has to offer.

The truth of the matter is that the Glenwood airport is a gem, a diamond in the rough. After flying out of airports all over the country I have realized just how special and unique the airport is. I have met numerous people at school and in flight training who love flying to Glenwood, enjoying the beautiful mountains as much as I do.

Over the past decade too many airports full of character and history have fallen victim to urban sprawl and lack of community support. I have also seen examples of airports that are embraced by the community and seen as a valuable asset.

Towns that want to attract business, business owners, community leaders, commerce and growth need an airport. Additionally, the Glenwood airport has provided other professional pilots with the means to start their careers and continue training.

In the blunt words of an old college professor, “any town that is worth a darn has an airport!”

I have always been a firm believer that the airport could be so much more if given the chance to grow and improve.

As a military aviator I have seen the importance that aviation plays in the imagination and growth of many children. I am approached daily by children wanting to know what airplane I fly, and it is wonderful to fill them with hope of achieving their goals to become pilots.

Fortunately there are places like Glenwood airport and people like the pilots in Glenwood, helping dreams to become a reality. For me, the Glenwood airport was a sanctuary and a place of learning that was the stepping-stone to a fulfilling career.

Gabriel Tonozzi is a 1993 graduate of Glenwood Springs High School. He is now a commissioned officer, serving as an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Ga.

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