Prairie Post (East Edition)

Airborne: love of aviation allows Rooks to soar

- By Anna Smith Commentato­r/Courier

17 year old Ayden Rooks is on literally top of the world after earning both his drone and private pilot’s licenses.

Rooks is currently in his grade 12 year, and is the youngest and first of his class to complete the microcrede­ntial Drone Program in conjunctio­n with Prairie Rose School Division and Medicine Hat College. Even before that, however, the native of Whitla recalls a longstandi­ng love of aviation, which he picked up after a focus on hockey in his youth.

“I went to cadets for the first time, September 19, about five years ago. And I signed up. And from there, I learned all about the program and what it had to offer,” said Rooks. “It took me a few years to warm up to the idea of being a pilot. Like I had a few flights. And I really thought that that was really cool. And I wanted to be a pilot from there.”

Rooks had been with Air Cadets for a few years when the micro-credential was made available, but he says that it immediatel­y caught his interest.

“They came in and talked about the multi credits that were through the Medicine Hat College, and one of them was the drone program. And from there, I wanted to get my pilot’s licence so I could fly bigger types of drones and for different types of jobs and stuff,” said Rooks. “I’ve always had a little bit of an interest in drones and always been able to fly them. It was quite interestin­g to see how the instructor brought on different concepts and different technology to take different pictures for example, crop mapping, or in real estate, we were doing house mapping and just like a person wanted to tour the house.”

The hardest part of the course was applying the theory they were learning to actually flying drones, said Rooks, but once he was able to start having hands-on experience with flight and the technology, it came easily enough.

After completing the course, Rooks received a scholarshi­p from the Department of National Defence via Air Cadets to do his pilot’s licence over the summer. He noted that while ultimately there were many similariti­es between flying drones and flying a plane himself, the experience­s were very different.

“I’ve been studying for my pilot’s licensce for about three years, because we need to know so much about ground school, and you need to know everything very well, exceptiona­lly well, because the program is seven weeks, and that’s extremely compressed,”said Rooks. “So it’s studying every night, but going from drones to planes wasn’t any different for me. I’ve always been told by my mom how I can drive extremely well. And I can do everything you like, controllin­g and everything like that was extremely good, it’s a very different thing going from the concepts of aviation to actually applying those to a plane. Like for instance, you’re just flying around a drone. And that’s just, you know, the technical concept. But when you’re actually inside of the aircraft, it’s very different.”

Rooks’ voice was hushed with awe as he spoke about getting to see the world from the air, in his opinion one of the best parts of flying.

“It’s quite exhilarati­ng. I really like it because I get to see different things up there. It’s something you don’t see on the ground,” said Rooks. “Like all the little places in Medicine Hat for instance, and things that you would miss on the ground. It’s quite interestin­g.”

According to Rooks, the next steps are to pursue aerospace engineerin­g, to hopefully someday work on spacecraft, but he’s also open to the possibilit­y of taking his aviation to the next level and getting his commercial pilot’s license in order to fly larger planes.

“I’m setting a lot of paths for the future generation­s . I hope to apply that knowledge that I took from the drone program and apply that to my Cadet experience,” said Rooks. “And I hope to start a program within cadets to teach them how to fly drones. And we also hope to get model airplanes to teach the cadets about the how, how all the different aspects of aviation come into airplanes, instead of just teaching them how everything goes.”

When he’s not in the air, Rooks still enjoys flying his drones, and motocross, when he’s not doing homework. However, his heart belongs with the cadets, which he encourages his peers to join.

“Cadets has been reformed to really teach kids more about aviation rather than a convention­al way of thinking where it was just bring them all in and sit them down to teach them. I think it’s really a really good leadership opportunit­y as well,” said Rooks. “I really encourage people my age to join cadets because it’s a very awesome thing to have on their resume. Not only but you get so many opportunit­ies.”

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