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Hill-Murray High School senior and Woodbury resident Evan Janochoski received his private pilot's license Jan. 29 at the Lake Elmo Airport after taking both an oral and flight test and completing 80 hours of flight time, most of which occurred in Alaska.

Finding 'freedom' through flight

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Most high school students spend their summer vacations lying on the beach, maybe working a summer job, or just enjoying their time off of school. However Woodbury resident Evan Janochoski spent his 2010 summer vacation soaring to new heights in Alaska, where he learned to fly.

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"I enjoy flying up in the air, it's a whole different feeling up there from being down on the ground," the Hill-Murray High School senior said. "There's kind of a freedom sense to it."

Janochoski passed his private pilot's license exam Jan. 29 at the Lake Elmo Airport.

Aviation in Alaska

Janochoski first became interested in flying in 2010 when his family took a vacation out to Alaska. While there, the Janochoski family visited with a friend who is a licensed Alaskan bush pilot.

Janochoski was able to go up in the plane with their friend, and even fly around a little himself.

"That's when I knew that I wanted to fly," he said.

That summer, Janochoski went back up to Alaska for a month where he spent many hours up in the plane learning how to fly.

"I started all of my training up in Alaska flying bush planes with him," he said.

Janochoski said learning to fly in the small bush planes, specifically tail draggers, was a unique experience since they are such basic planes and don't include some of the technologies of other planes.

"It kind of got me ahead of the game since I started in such a basic airplane without any of the gadgets," he said. "It's a whole different sense of flying."

Janochoski said flying in Alaska was one of the greatest experiences in his life because the sights were so breathtaking - the water, the glaciers and even the wildlife.

However, Janochoski said Alaska had its share of challenges. Unpredictable weather, he said, caused him to be grounded periodically.

"The weather is kind of hard to deal with sometimes," he said. "You always hear stories about people getting stuck in bad weather and it's always in the back of my mind when I fly."

The flight test

In order to even qualify for a private pilot's license, a person must complete a minimum of 40 hours of flight time, 10 hours of solo time, five hours of cross country flight, three hours of night flight and 10 night landings.

Even though Janochoski completed most of his flight time in Alaska, he did most of his night flights and cross country flights in Minnesota.

Janochoski said he has racked up close to 80 hours in flight time.

During the private pilot's license exam at Lake Elmo Airport, Janochoski had to go through both an oral exam, which asked him specifics about the plane, and a flight exam, which required him to perform various flight maneuvers.

"Once I was up in the air, you know what you were doing and it kind of just came to you," he said. "But at first I was a little nervous."

Last year alone, only 1,000 private pilot's licenses were awarded in Minnesota. East Ridge High School junior and Woodbury resident Morgan Maxwell also received her private pilot's license last year.

Now that Janochoski has his private pilot's license, he is able to fly solo, as well as with passengers.

Janochoski said he is excited to be able to fly to his family's cabin in northern Wisconsin and to fly to visit family in North Dakota.

Whereas some parents might be hesitant to let their children hit the open air, Janochoski's parents LeAnn and Dan said it's just become the new norm.

"I have a lot of faith it what he's doing," LeAnn said. "I look at it as the same as having your kids on the road driving."

The open air

Janochoski will be attending the University of North Dakota next year for commercial aviation.

In the long-term, Janochoski said he hopes to fly cargo or corporate planes - perhaps even in Alaska.

"I would love to do more of that side of flying," Janochoski. "But if that doesn't happen, I'd love to go back up to Alaska and fly for the small airports there or the Alaska Highway Patrol has always been in the back of mind - there's just more opportunities to fly in Alaska since everyone flies everywhere.

"I just really like finally getting my license done."

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Amber Kispert-Smith
Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
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