Friday's Fabulous Flyer!
As I have often said, Pilots are Plane Crazy. But there is nothing crazy about the love of aviation or those people who give their love to a great cause. The Hope 100 all began because a Dad gave everything to his son to reach his dreams. Sadly, before his son could take Dad for a flight, his dad lost his battle with cancer. But this story is not about Joe Burlas today. This story is about his friend, Mike, who is donating his time, and love of aviation, to help break a world record in honor of Mr. Burlas!
"Inspiration With a Purpose"
"I was born on January 6th 1992 in Chicago, IL. I have one sister, Carolyn, who is nearly 2 years younger than me, so we grew up close. I lived in Roscoe Village, Chicago, near Wrigley Field until the age of six. My parents wanted my sister and me to have a better education so in 1998 we moved to New Lenox. I remember the first night we moved in, Carolyn and I were so excited to have a big backyard we spent the first night sleeping in a tent in the middle of the yard.
I had a pretty typical upbringing. School, soccer, and friends. I had a happy, adventurous childhood. From as far back as I can remember I have always had a fascination with planes and aviation. From paper airplane kits, to designing a flying machine out of Legos; airplanes were always a constant variable in my life.
I remember one time when I was about 6 years old, I found myself designing and building a makeshift aircraft out of things around the house. I nailed 3 pieces of 2x4 together: fuselage, wings, and a tail. I decided it needed a paintjob as well, so I brought it down to our newly finished basement for a quick spray-paint. A short 15 minutes later the blue and green camouflage pattern not only adorned my wooden model, but also the brand-new carpet. Though my father was furious, my passion and interest in airplanes continued.
Following my passion for aviation, I joined my High School’s AFJROTC program freshman year. I enjoyed it immensely and found my niche with the program’s drill team. Sophomore year I also discovered the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) and shortly after I truly discovered my passion for flight when CAP took a trip to the Johnson Flight Academy in Mattoon, IL. There were three slots that were available for a 7-day program: Gliders, Hot Air Balloons, and Powered Flight. Though I was a brand new to the program I was able to snag a spot with the Powered Flight group. I will never forget my first time in the little Cessna 172. The first time I pushed the throttle all the way forward, pulled up on the yolk, and left the earth is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. That week I logged my first 12 hours of flight.
After high school, my love for flying lead me to enroll into Lewis University’s flight program. After getting my private pilot’s license, I found myself very interested with the mechanics of flight and with my Private Pilot’s license in hand, I made the decision to switch my major from flight to aircraft maintenance.
At first I was disappointed with not being able to fly on a regular basis but once I dove into the maintenance curriculum I found a real love for working on aircraft that I never realized I had. After my first semester in the program, I knew that fixing airplanes is something I can see myself doing for the rest of my life.
Towards the end of my time at Lewis University, I had a near death motorcycle accident. I was following my girlfriend into Chicago when suddenly I hit a mud flap laying on the road, lost control of my bike, and hit a telephone pole. I ended up getting airlifted to Loyola hospital’s ICU Level 1 Trauma Unit.
I had internal bleeding, a shredded spleen, broken radius and ulna, 3 broken ribs, a severe concussion, a punctured lung, bruised heart, and lacerations covering my body. This definitely put a halt to my last semester of college but my professors were gracious enough to freeze my transcripts until I was back on my feet.
In 2016, I finally graduated with a Bachelors in Science for Aviation Maintenance Management. Shortly after graduation I took a job working for Skywest Airlines out of O’Hare International Airport. I absolutely love my job. Whether it’s working on the line or working at the hanger, each day offers different issues that I find always challenge me to become a better mechanic.
The past year and a half, I have also found myself working as the Maintenance Lead with The Hope 100. I was brought to this exceptional group when I was asked to attend an urgent meeting by Joe Burlas, a fraternity brother of mine in the International Aviation Fraternity Alpha Eta Rho. He understood my passion for aviation, specifically aviation maintenance, and approached me with a challenge to come up with modifications to an aircraft that would allow him and Kazimierz Dyduch to fly for 100 days without touching the ground.
I look forward to building this machine of endurance with our large group of maintenance volunteers and it’s our aim to grab people’s attention and inspire the next wave of airmen. I’m also excited to bring attention to the incredible leaps forward that the Abramson Center is making in cancer research. In the future, I hope to work with Southwest Airlines, and possibly Boeing."
Click on The Hope 100 to learn more
Enjoy the Journey!