Delcy Palk, a business instructor at MHCC, doubles as a flight instructor at Gorge Winds Aviation at the Troutdale Airport.
A U.S. Air Force veteran, Palk learned how to fly at the local airport about 20 years ago. Despite her six and-a-half years with the USAF, she didn’t learn to fly there.
“Never flew in the military; too short,” she joked as she explained her off-campus job. “I wanted to fly, (and) civil airplanes have a lot more latitude in the size a pilot can be.”
Her veteran benefits did help to pay for her training, however.
Palk actually spends most of her days at the airport, teaching her online business classes during her “down” time.
Asked what she enjoys about flying, Palk quipped that “it beats sitting in traffic all day– between 3:30 and 6:30 you can see all the traffic on the I-5 and I-205 and you’re like, ‘I’m so lucky I’m up here!’ ”
Palk adds that many students feel the same way. And she sees several hundred new students at the airport each year.
“We’re getting a lot, lately. The aviation industry as a whole is really booming right now for regional operators like Horizon or Alaska… smaller regionals (airlines) and air cargo guys are hiring big-time, sucking people up left and right,” she said.
Palk attributes the demand to shifting buying habits. “With everything being ordered online you’ve got to ship it somehow, and drones can’t do that yet!”
Though the controls of a small aircraft may look complex and overwhelming to the untrained eye, the flight instructor insists that “after the first two or three times, you remember where everything is at.”
The required flying hours in order to solo and earn a pilot’s license is 40 hours. “After 40 hours it becomes second nature,” she said, while conceding that this isn’t exactly a cheap endeavor.
“Private pilot’s licenses… cost between $5,000 and $7,000” although that “depends how fast you learn,” Palk said. “Obviously, the faster you learn the cheaper it is, but it’s not like you pay it all up front, you pay it as you go, over three or four months.”
Palk encourages students who are interested in learning how to fly, or even just want to take a plane ride, to head to the Troutdale airport nearby for a discovery flight, which starts at $86 per hour.
She enjoys the discovery flights, she said, because “You can see people on the ground. When you fly over the college you can see people walking on the campus and everything.
“So, next time you see a little airplane, wave!”