Senior Alexis Nadreau lands herself a pilot license


Courtesy of Alexis Nadreau

Standing in front of her family-owned plane, Nadreau and her grandpa wrap up after her first training flight. She is holding the flight checklist, which includes all the steps required to have a successful flight. “I felt very happy and proud; all the work leading up to that moment was worth it,” Nadreau said. “When I was controlling the plane, I felt nervous at first since it was my first time flying alone, but once I was in the air, I felt a lot more confident.”

Flying at 1,000 feet, peering down at the city of St. Louis, senior Alexis Nadreau does what she has been learning since she was 7 years old: flies an aircraft. 

“Flying is one of the things I am really passionate about. I flew a lot when I was a kid, and I developed an interest over time,” Nadreau said. “It started when my grandpa flew us in his plane, and I was really fascinated by all the views and the mechanics. I have always wanted to control all of the overwhelming amounts of buttons and steering the plane. Now that I am allowed to fly, it feels amazing that I have finally accomplished my childhood goal.”

Most pilots that are being trained see a professional trainer, but for Nadreau, her grandpa, who is already a certified pilot, has trained her for most of her life.

“When I flew for the first time, I was scared and pulsing with fear, just as any other person would react doing something [like this] for the first time,” Nadreau said. “When my grandpa was there, he took away all of my fear, because I knew that he was there for me, and he would do anything to help me.” 

Nadreau started off small by sticking close to the airport she flew from.   

“When I started training, the only thing I could see was the airport and the parking lot because I was really worried about what was going on, and I needed to start off easy,” Nadreau said. “The more I practiced, the farther I got away from the airport. It really touched me that I was able to see all of St. Louis with my grandpa. He was with me every step of the way.” 

It really touched me that I was able to see all of St. Louis with my grandpa. He was with me every step of the way,”

— senior Alexis Nadreau

During this past summer, Nadreau received her student’s pilot license, allowing her to fly a private aircraft without an adult.  

“It took me years of difficult training and hard work, but I am glad I eventually got my license,” Nadreau said. “It is truly amazing that I can fly anywhere in the U.S. by myself. I never thought I would be sitting in the cockpit, controlling a plane all on my own.” 

After long lessons on turns and landings, she has been training for 10 years now. 

“First, I would do all the boring stuff, like getting out of the hangar, and starting the plane and making sure it is running smoothly as well as doing the whole takeoff process,” Nadreau said. “Once I was in the air, that was the fun part. I could control the plane entirely, and I could basically fly however I wanted, which was an amazing feeling.” 

In addition to her training, she was required by the Federal Aviation Administration to complete at least 20 flight hours to earn her license. The plane that Nadreau and her grandpa use, the Cessna 120, is family-owned. She got to fly it during her practices at various locations.

“I mainly practice at [Spirit of St. Louis], and I get to practice drills and different routines with my grandpa, who lives in South Carolina, so I often get to practice there as well,” Nadreau said. “The part that I enjoy about learning how to fly, is being able to learn about the plane and to know how everything works.”

After getting her license, Nadreau got to fly her first solo flight and practiced different skills like turns, stalls, and flying at different speeds. 

“At the beginning, I was really nervous, but I started my flight by taking off and flying around St. Louis,” Nadreau said. “My grandpa taught me all of the skills which helped me learn how to get more comfortable. It was such a wonderful experience, and getting to learn it will help me each and every time I practice, one after another.”

Now that she has her license, Nadreau wants to continue increasing her flight skills.

“For now, I am doing it for fun as a hobby, but I want to continue to fly in my future because I am very passionate about it; I enjoy it every step of the way,” Nadreau said. “It takes a lot of courage and experience, and it is a useful skill that can help me a lot. I can’t imagine where I will be 10 years from now.”