Michael Surls with
sons Garrett (left) and Daniel at AirVenture this year.
Michael Surls, EAA 306048, of Marshall,
Michigan, has been an EAA member since 1988 and a frequent AirVenture
Oshkosh attendee over the years. Although he had some flight training
several years ago, family obligations and a career change prevented him
from closing the loop and obtaining his private pilot certificate.
But thanks to the luck of the draw, EAA,
and Cessna, the 53-year-old pilot wannabe will soon fulfill his dream of
flight. Surls won the $5,000 Cessna Pilot Center Learn to Fly
flight-training package, held during AirVenture at the EAA/NAFI Learn to
Fly Discovery Center.
Surls said he completed about 50 hours
worth flight training many years ago and was but "two cross country
flights and a checkride away" from his certificate. At the time he
was working as a rocket engineer for Pratt & Whitney in Palm Beach,
Florida, but with the end of the Cold War, his position was eliminated,
Raising his growing family then took
priority, and flight training was put on the back burner. But he still
was fascinated with the idea of flying, so he would ride right seat with
a friend, attending the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In in Lakeland, Florida, and
other events. That was the next-best thing, but got him no closer to his
He and his family eventually relocated to
the Midwest and started to attend Oshkosh. Hidden somewhere in the back
of his mind was the desire to finish his flight training.
Surls drove to Oshkosh on Friday before
AirVenture this year, but that was actually later than usual - he
normally arrives on Thursday and volunteers with the Vintage Aircraft
Association, where he helps park arriving airplanes.
Surls visited the Learn to Fly Discovery
Center tent and noticed the sweepstakes offer. His immediate thought was
to enter his son, Daniel, 23, who had expressed an interest recently in
becoming a pilot. But while walking out, he thought to himself,
"Why not me?" and proceeded to enter himself.
On Friday, August 15, got the call, from
EAA's Mark Forss, Learn to Fly Discovery Center coordinator, informing
him that he'd won. "To actually have a chance for my dream to come
true is really something," he said.
One of the things Surls looks forward to
is flying kids in the EAA Young Eagles Program. "I want to
introduce people to flying," he said. "With an 11-year-old son
(Garrett), there are about 50 kids I can show how neat flying is."
When will he start? "As soon as I
can," he said, adding that he expects to receive a call from Cessna
to give him the particulars. The closest Cessna Pilot Center is in
Kalamazoo, about a 25-minute drive from Marshall.
Surls, who drives a motor home to
AirVenture, told Garrett: "Next year, some way, some how, we are
flying to Oshkosh!"