Alpha Eta Rho, Eastern Michigan University’s aviation fraternity, held their annual Pancake Breakfast and Fly-in on Saturday at Willow Run Airport. Fraternity members, flight students, family, friends and alumni, gathered at the Eagle Flight Center for the event to raise funds and promote the EMU Aviation program.
Events like the pancake breakfast that bring awareness to the community about the aviation program are especially important to Ryan Dougherty, a former EMU aviation student and current instructor. “I wish more people knew about [the program],” he said. “We’re out here, but nobody knows.”
While the pancakes got good reviews, the highlights of the morning were the two special appearances: a vintage bi-plane and a Coast Guard helicopter. There was also a raffle for an hour-long flight lesson. Also exciting for the fraternity members and aviation students was the attendance of students from other universities.
“We have people from Western, Michigan and Ohio State,” said Jackie Baas, a senior and president of Alpha Eta Rho. “This is the first time we’ve had other schools come out, it’s really exciting.”
There are about 30 members of Alpha Eta Rho, all of whom are in the aviation program of about 120 students and it is still growing. “We’re expanding very fast,” Derek Giuliano, a junior in the program, said. According to Giuliano, the program is expected to have around 40 new students in the fall.
Dougherty said the aviation program at Eastern is superior to programs at other schools because of the “freedom to take the planes wherever you’d like. It’s that student freedom, rather than being restricted, that’s great.”
All of the students in attendance were excited to share their love of flying. Joseph Beard, a sophomore, has been in the flight program for two years, but said he was in the seventh grade when he was, in his words, “bitten by the bug” and decided he wanted to fly planes for a living. “I couldn’t see myself as being anything but a pilot,” he said.
Ryan Todd, a sophomore and treasurer of Alpha Eta Rho, said his favorite thing about flying is, “The feeling you have when you’re in the air. It makes the hustle and bustle of down here feel nonexistent.”
Baas has been flying since her junior year of high school. She said she can’t imagine her life without flying planes. “If you don’t do it, you miss it so much you have to go back to it. Without this, my life is not complete.”
For Dougherty, his gratification comes not from his own flying, but from that of his students. For him, it’s most rewarding “when [the students] finally get it and go flying on their own.”