Close this search box.

Corps Commander Earns Private Pilot Certification

Sean Michael Knick II, the son of Sean and Debbie Knick of Washington, VA, gave up his senior class trip to Busch Gardens in order to take a very important test: the check ride for his private pilot certification.

Corps Commander Sean Knick '12 has earned hs private pilot certification.Knick is a senior at Randolph-Macon Academy in Front Royal, VA, and has been a student pilot in the school’s flight program since the middle of his sophomore year. He soloed on January 24, 2011, and set a goal to obtain his private pilot certificate before graduating from R-MA. He succeeded in doing just that, successfully completing his check ride on May 25, 2012.

“I wasn’t going to accept no as an answer,” he said when asked if he thought he could reach his goal before graduating this Saturday, June 2, 2012. “Once I see a possibility and it’s a little out of reach, I’m going to do everything [I need to do] to accomplish it, and that’s exactly what I did.”

To become a private pilot, Knick had to complete a minimum of 40 hours of flight instruction, with 20 of that being with an instructor. He had to fly three hours at night, three hours flying solely by reference to the flight instruments, ten hours solo, and five hours solo cross-country (this means flying to an airport over 50 nautical miles (57.5 miles) from Front Royal).  The final requirement was to pass both an oral exam and check ride with a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Designated Pilot Examiner.  Knick completed his check ride in R-MA’s Cessna 172 Skyhawk at Front Royal-Warren County Airport.

Fitting all this into his schedule was not easy. In addition to his heavy college-prep course load at Randolph-Macon Academy, Knick has held the corps commander position since the beginning of the school year. This is the highest position in the Air Force JROTC program at the school, and comes with a great number of responsibilities. To top off his busy schedule, he was captain of the varsity golf team this spring.

In spite of all this, Knick managed to fulfill the requirements and scheduled his check ride with the FAA examiner for May 23, 2012. However, luck was not with him that day as the ceiling was too low for the flight he had planned. He rescheduled it for Friday, May 25th, and even then challenges arose. At 9:30 pm May 24th, he learned that the ceiling for the next day was predicted to be too low once again. Determined to accomplish his goal, Knick re-created his entire flight plan for the check ride, finishing up around 1:45 am, only to get up at 6 am to prepare for his test as his classmates boarded a bus bound for Busch Gardens.

“It was definitely worth it,” he said of all his effort and the sacrifices he had made to earn his private pilot certificate before graduation.

Knick plans to attend Virginia Military Institute in the fall, where he will participate in Marine Corps ROTC. His hope is that he will be able to “slide” into a pilot slot through the Marines, but as he stated, “I’ll see what opportunities open up.”

Randolph-Macon Academy (R-MA), founded in 1892, is a college-preparatory, coeducational day and boarding school for students in grades 6 through 12.  Students in grades 9-12 participate in R-MA’s 91st Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) and have the option to participate in a unique flight program. R-MA is affiliated with the United Methodist Church and is located in Front Royal, VA.