“Many kids go through phases saying, ‘I want to be a vet’ or ‘I want to be an astronaut,’” sophomore Stella Risinger stated, “but in the back of my mind I always knew I wanted to join the military.” When Stella was 13 years old, she went to an air show in Massachusetts where she had the opportunity to view all sorts of planes and military vehicles. According to Stella, it was at that exact moment she instantly realized she wanted to be in the Air Force. In order to prepare, Stella said she started taking private flying lessons and now, once every three weeks, Stella shows up at Robertson Airport in Plainville ready to fly.
During flight lessons, Stella sits in the pilot’s seat while her certified flight instructor, Steve Averich, sits in the passenger’s. Both have foot pedals and controls just in case something goes wrong and he needs to get more hands-on. The layout of the plane includes many moving pieces such as the wheel, throttle, mixture parts, and rudder pedals. For those who do not know, the throttle adjusts the rotations per minute of the propeller, the mixture adjusts the fuel and air mixture in the engine, and the rudder serves as a basic control surface. Each lesson is two hours long, but before going into the air, Stella said she is required to complete a pre-flight check, where she walks around the plane and checks to make sure everything looks right, the plane is running correctly, and there is enough fuel.
Once done, Stella said she takes off at Robertson Airport and flies to the coast or around Hartford. When she is practicing navigation, Stella can often look down and spot KO and other locations she is familiar with.
Recently, she has been focusing more closely on perfecting her takeoffs and landings. “It takes a while to feel the plane and learn the muscle memory movement of landings,” Stella said. “I am in that stage where I feel confident in some aspects of flying the plane, but I am definitely still working on… learning new skills.” Stella said she can start soloing, meaning flying by herself, when Steve feels confident enough in her, which she is hoping is sooner rather than later.
Stella explained that she plans on graduating high school with her private pilot’s license, which would allow her to fly the models of planes that she has been practicing with. Since being in the Air Force is a major goal of Stella’s, she is hoping that the flight lessons will help her get one step ahead in the process. “I hope the flight lessons are going to give me a leg up and help me out as I am trying to achieve my goals of being an actual Air Force pilot,” she said.
As another way to supplement her love of flying, Stella said she and her mom recently traveled to the Air Force Academy in Colorado, which she described as one of the coolest things ever. “It looked very neat and organized,” she said. “It was a little intimidating because I got to see a lot of incredibly hard-working kids, and now I know I need to work really hard.”
For example, Stella said she needs to earn top notch grades and stay fit in order to attend the Academy so she will continue to work hard academically and athletically. “Not only are grades important, but staying fit is obviously important too,” Stella said, “because the Air Force requires a lot of physical capability.” Even though she knows lots of stress and hard work lie ahead of her, rather than instilling fear or worry, Stella said the trip to the Academy made her all the more motivated and excited to serve one day.
Her family and friends are extremely supportive of Stella’s aspiration of being in the Air Force and were not at all surprised when she informed them of her life plans. “It is literally so sick and I am so incredibly proud of her,” her friend sophomore Kyleace Hunter said enthusiastically. “She is 15 and can already fly a plane. Imagine being that cool.”