“People ask me what I like to do, and I say that I like to fly helicopters,” says Miles Morgan,’18. “And it seems so wild to people that this eighteen-year-old is flying.”
“I’ve always been interested in flying,” he says. “I’ve liked reading about it, looking at pictures, and every family vacation somehow took us to the Air & Space Museum because I wanted to go. But I always thought it would be an impossible feat for me to actually become a pilot.”
As distant as his childhood dream once seemed, Morgan is only months away from securing his private pilot’s license. He hopes to obtain his private license by March, which will require 100 miles with an instructor, 100 miles solo, 5-7 hours of nighttime flying (some solo, some with instructor), a knowledge test (multiple choice, weather, traffic patterns), a practical test (for which he has to make a whole flight plan for his examiner), and a flight exam (with an examiner).
“The year before freshman year, my dad told me that I needed something to do the next summer. He said that if I didn’t want to go to camp, I would have to figure out something to do with my summer. So, I had the chance to learn something cool. I thought about it and decided, ‘why don’t I try to learn to fly helicopters?’”
Morgan took his first flight the summer before freshman year.
From that single flight, as he describes, “It wasn’t even a question of what I wanted to do. Since that moment, this has totally filled my mind. I am always thinking about flying.”
Because of the demands of Dublin’s full and rigorous curriculum, Morgan did not pursue his career of learning to fly full-time; however, the limits his school life created proved rewarding.
“After freshman year, there wasn’t really a way to fly, so I would fly a ton over the summer but not a lot during the school year, so I lost a lot of muscle memory,” he says. “It put some boundaries on what I could learn and at what speed.”
The rhythm of his learning shifted slightly this year, Morgan’s senior year.
“This year, with Senior Project, I was able to find a way to travel to Nashua every weekend to go flying and to work on my certifications in a serious way.”
He has around 55 flight hours on record, and a few weekends ago, Morgan completed his first solo flight.
“I’ve done plenty of flying, but I did not expect soloing to be as task-heavy as it was,” he says. “Even normal procedures—like a traffic pattern—I had to think about much more. If I had to change an altimeter setting or radio frequency, that was something I had to do alone. The flying wasn’t any harder, but I learned how to conduct single-pilot task management. To think about everything moments before it occurs is the big challenge.”
Since his first solo, he has tried again and noticed vast improvements.
Currently, Morgan is planning a solo cross-country flight, which means flying between airports: Nashua, Lawrence, and Beverly.
“I’ve never had to do a cross country where I plot by paper,” he says. “I use a map and plot everything without a GPS. Eventually, I will use a GPS, but first I have to understand how to use navigation logs and flight charts and to understand it all. After that, my instructor and I are going to do a 100-mile cross-country. We will land in Portsmouth, NH, eat lunch, and then fly back.”
Even with this time consuming, specialized hobby outside of Dublin—one which Morgan intends to transform into a career—Morgan recognizes that he has transferable skills he has learned from Dublin that complement his journey flying.
“Stress management and problem-solving is what I have learned at Dublin that relates to flying. At Dublin, there’s always work, and, so, being able to manage my tasks, figure out what I need to do and when I need to do it—those mental skills translate over to flying,” he says. “If I am flying to Beverley airport, I need to make sure my heading is correct, I need to be looking over my flight chart, I need to check my chart for landmarks, I have to think about the airspace I’m in and asking to get cleared to switch a radio frequency, I have to get the weather for Beverley, and then I have to call Beverley and tell them I’m coming. All of this is in maybe ten minutes.”
“Being able to work under stress at Dublin has shown me, okay, channel this stress. Prioritize. Get everything organized,” he says.
Morgan loves flying because “it’s really visceral.” With the plexiglass canopy of his helicopter, he can see everything, and the feeling is unlike any other.
“Helicopters fly very rarely above 3,000 feet,” he elaborates. “That’s ten times less what you are cruising in on your airline flight. Being so low to the ground still makes you feel connected to the scenery around and below you. You are getting a lot of sensory input. We can go below 500 feet as long as we aren’t endangering people or property, meaning we can go into confined areas that airplanes could never reach.”
“It’s an interesting way to explore because it is faster than driving, you can see everything around you, but you are still so connected to the terrain,” he says. “You are connected with the topography of the earth. The helicopter vibrates a lot, but in terms of piloting a helicopter, you get connected to every shake and lean and noise and vibration. You are really connected to the helicopter. A lot of the time, I am just listening: you know when things are going well, when to correct. It’s just as much about what you are hearing and feeling and perceiving around you as it is about scanning my gauges.”
Morgan expresses his passion for flying with gratitude and a kind of awe: he is consumed with his learning process and his progress and his goal to become a pilot. His early dream has taken him beyond what he once imagined.
“I want people to be able to explore their passion and really experience their passion the way that I did my freshman summer. I want people to go for it because you never know,” he says. “You might try this wild thing and it becomes the thing you want to do for the rest of your life, like it was for me.”