Winging toward Air Force

By Eli Haims

At 15, Hank Gerba ’12 is counting down the days until he gets his permit – not to drive, but as a student pilot.

Gerba started taking flying lessons this summer at the Santa Monica Airport. He has already taken two lessons in a Cessna 152, and plans to take one every other month.

One of Gerba’s flights took him over Point Dume in Malibu, then to Simi Valley to perform a touch-and-go landing, which is where they “land and take off without stopping so we can practice landing.” Gerba says that landing is the most difficult part of flying because it “requires a lot of skill to stay stable. It takes a lot of coordination.”

Gerba has had a love for flying from a young age, playing flight simulators with his father, George, since he was 4 years old.

Today, Gerba’s favorite simulator is IL2, and his favorite plane to fly in the game is the Sturmovik, a Russian World War II all-purpose warplane. Gerba says that the simulator is “exactly like flying except for the wind.”

Not only does Gerba want to earn his pilot’s license, but he also has high hopes to someday be a pilot in the United States Air Force. He hopes to go to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, but says getting accepted is “like [getting accepted to] West Point, almost impossible to get in.” Once in the Air Force, Gerba would like to fly the A-10 attack plane, which he says is a far cry from the Cessna that he currently flies.

Gerba also plans to join the Civil Air Patrol, which is, as he says, “like the Boy Scouts but for flying.” This group is a federally supported group affiliated with the Air Force. He says that being a member of the CAP is strongly recommended for going to the Air Force Academy and will help his chances of getting in.