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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Deer Park Home Link: Budding pilot Ryder Wolfe keeps reaching for the sky

By Joe Everson For The Spokesman-Review

Ryder Wolfe’s love for aviation started out as an infatuation, but over the years it has become, other than his family, the most important part of his life.

“I’ve always been interested in flight,” the Deer Park Home Link senior said. “We live near the airport, and I remember wondering how it would feel to fly.”

Home Link is a parent partnership program where parents of home-schooled children and specialists from the Deer Park school district work together to offer both academic and enrichment opportunities.

“I’ve taken probably hundreds of enrichment courses over the years with Home Link,” Wolfe said. “But I remember that when I was entering my freshman year, I needed to choose one more course, and it came down to either basketball or aviation.

“That wasn’t really the start of my interest. Before I took that class, I would read books about aviation and talk with people about it. I wanted to contact some flight schools, but COVID put that on the back burner. During my sophomore year, I contacted the local flight school and met with an instructor. I started by doing all the ground schooling independently before I started flying.”

Wolfe’s parents, aware of his interest and supportive of it, surprised him with his first flight lesson for his 16th birthday.

“I just showed up, and I was pretty nervous,” he said. “For the most part, it was just observation, but I got to take the controls when we were flying over Lake Coeur d’Alene and on the approach back home. I didn’t really start training until the next spring, but by my third or fourth flight, I could do most of the flying by myself. I soloed for the first time during the summer of 2021.

“I suppose it could get boring after practicing the same thing over and over,” he said, “but I learn something new every time I fly.”

Wolfe got his private pilot’s license last week and learned he’s receiving an Airline Owners and Pilots Association flight training scholarship.

Now that he can carry passengers, “My dad wants me to fly him and my mom to Sandpoint and take them to dinner,” he said.

Aviation may be Wolfe’s keenest interest, but it’s not his only one. He has been a Running Start student during his junior and senior years, earning an Associate of Science degree from the Community Colleges of Spokane. He hopes to attend Big Bend Community College as a second-year student this fall, and to complete the commercial pilot program in one year. And at some point, he plans to get a bachelor’s degree in engineering.

He’s not certain yet whether he wants to be a commercial pilot or to fly cargo, but he can satisfy requirements for both at Big Bend in Moses Lake.

Since that first lesson, Wolfe has paid for most of his flight lessons with his earnings from 4H projects, starting with breeding and showing heifers in the third grade, and progressing to the point where he raises and markets one steer every year. He’s the oldest of 10 children, living with his parents on the family ranch.

“Leaving my family won’t change the fact that they are my family,” he said, “and I’m always going to come home to visit and tell stories. But I’m also grateful to have the opportunities that I do.”

Wherever he lands (pun intended), Wolfe will always remember one of the lessons that he learned: takeoffs are optional, but landings are mandatory.