March 9, 2013

Linebacker Earning His Wings

Flaps? Check. Fuel level? Check. Oil level? Check. Propeller? Check.

After a lengthy pre-flight safety inspection process, an aircraft is deemed “airworthy.”

And so is Kris Frost, a sophomore in Aviation/Professional Flight Management at the Auburn University College of Business. He is one of roughly 100 students involved in the program – the second-oldest such program in the nation.

“Flying isn’t scary for me,” said Frost, just moments before preparing Wednesday afternoon for a 90-minute flight from Auburn University Regional Airport. “But I am afraid of heights. You just don’t feel like you’re up in the air up there.”

Frost isn’t just an aspiring pilot, he has another hobby. A decorated high school All-American from Matthews, N.C., a suburb of Charlotte, the 6-foot-2, 233-pound Frost is a linebacker on the Tigers’ football team. Playing behind senior Daren Bates, Frost accrued five tackles last season and forced a fumble.

Frost will be featured in an upcoming Auburn IMG Network production of “Auburn Every Day” to be broadcast the week after the April 20 A-Day spring practice game.

“We’re always looking for good stories off of the field from our athletes,” said Chandler Harkey, Director of Video Production for the Auburn IMG Sports Network. Harkey spent the afternoon of March 20 with Frost and videoed his flight from inside a Cessna 172, and pre-flight preparation.

Why aviation?

“On my official visit to Auburn (in 2010), my major was important to me,” Frost said. This was the only school I saw where they had an airport real close to the campus. When I was here, I talked to them about the aviation program. I’ve always been interested in flying and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.”

Frost said he has been flying roughly “three times per week” since last summer. For now, the young pilot must fly with an instructor.

When asked what his favorite maneuver is, the fearless Frost said “stalls.”

“When an airplane can’t produce lift … it gives you a rush,” Frost said. “That’s what we fly for – get ourselves out of situations.”

“Kris is nearing completion of the first stage of the Private Pilot course,” said Grant Hines, Frost’s instructor. “This is a great time for him because this stage culminates in an exciting flight – a flight most pilots remember for the rest of their days – the first solo. This will be his first flight to act as PIC (pilot in command), and his first to operate the aircraft by himself. With his continued hard work and dedication, he is on track to succeed in his current goal of obtaining his Private Pilot Certificate. Kris will then move on to advanced pilot ratings in the Professional Flight Management curriculum. At the completion of his degree, Kris will be a highly-skilled pilot in a great position to have a successful career in the aviation industry.”

Frost said football and flying have their share of similarities.

“They are very similar because you have to multi-task in both,” he said. “In the air, you are making radio calls and listening to your instructor, who is like a coach beside you … minus the yelling. You put in a lot of work outside of being on the playing field.”

Auburn’s program has grown to become one of the most prestigious in the nation.

David Hoebelheinrich, a flight instructor who is also Vice President of the War Eagle Flying Team and junior majoring in aviation management, said the program is: “a path to becoming a professional aviation businessman or pilot. It combines aviation courses into a business degree. What we do here at the airport is conduct the pilot courses needed by the students to earn certifications required to become a professional pilot.

“Classes include a three-credit hour ground school for each rating and then a flight lab with it as well. During the flight labs you will have three two-hour aircraft blocks a week where you will go flying with your dedicated instructor. During these flights you are getting one-on-one instruction and learning things from landings, maneuvers in the air, navigation, and all of the things that go behind the scenes like aircraft systems, weather, etc. It’s a very unique opportunity to learn and have quality one on one instruction.

“Auburn is one of the oldest flight schools in the country with successful alumni at almost every major airline. It’s a relatively small program, however it produces a quality well-rounded product that is marketable to many companies.”

Frost is already considering what he wants to do in the future. Are professional pilot’s wings in-store?

“I’m really considering it, depending on football,” he said. “Aviation opens a lot of doors.”

Follow the link to watch Frost’s Cessna take the skies:

March 9, 2013