Interlake student flying high
February 27, 2012 · Updated 11:25 AM
Zach Sweetser has had his sights set on the sky since he was a 4th grader.
More than eight years ago Sweetser took a ride in a neighbor’s private plane from Renton to Boeing Field. Ever since that day, Sweetser has been hooked.
“I knew right then I was definitely going to stay with it,” said Sweetser, a junior at Interlake High School. “There’s something about flying; I just liked being off the ground. It was kind of a free feeling.”
Sweetser has followed through on his nearly life-long obsession with flight, earning his sport pilot license Dec. 23 on his 17th birthday. Sweetser is now allowed to fly a powered parachute, which is essentially a parachute that carries a motorized, one-seated, three-wheeled machine. These planes fly approximately 30 miles an hour, and a full tank of gas allows a pilot to stay in the air for about three hours.
For Sweetser, his sport pilot license was reason to celebrate, but he’s got his sights set higher. Sweetser plans to attend Central Washington University to study aviation. During this time, he hopes to get his private and commercial pilot licenses, with the goal of working for a major airline.
Sweetser is so locked in on the ultimate goal, that keeping him focused on the steps to get there remained difficult, said Sweetser’s flight instructor Mark Martin.
“He knows what he wants to do in life, and he wants to be a pilot, so he always was wandering to the airplanes taking off,” Martin said. “The toughest part was focusing him on the task at hand, learning what he needs now rather than focusing on what he will do later.”
Sweetser and Martin bonded quickly. They began working together last summer, and Martin helped him get the 12 required hours he needed for his license test. Sweetser planned a solo trip from Arlington, where he took his lessons, out to Camano Island. He took a written Federal Aviation Administration exam. Then he had to plan a three-legged trip that could be doable under certain conditions. Sweetser passed with flying colors.
For Sweetser, earning the license was one of the biggest moments his life. It was an important moment for Martin as well. Sweetser and Martin shared the obsession with flying. Unlike his student, Martin looked at flight as purely a hobby. Having learned at basically no charge from his instructor, Martin wanted to repay the favor.
He met Sweetser at an air show last July, and offered to teach him for nothing more than fuel and testing costs. Martin was especially excited about teaching a young potential pilot. He has championed a desire to go to local schools, educating students about flight, and offer a scholarship program.
“Here was my chance; it kind of just came to me,” he said. “I’ve always just wanted to teach someone young.”
The final stipulation was that Sweetser remember the kind gesture and pay it forward to another youngster who may not have the ability to pay to get his wings.
Sweetser has already started leading the way. He’s been involved with a remote control club at Marymoor Park. He is using his abilities to contribute art through aerial photography and video.
Though Sweetser’s lifelong interest lies in flying, he’s no one-trick pony.
He has played the classical piano for eight years, and then jazz piano for two years. He’s played in jazz and other types of bands at Interlake, as well.
“Pretty much, flying and music are my two main things,” he said.