It took Christa Fosse a while to realize that she was destined for a career in aviation. She tested her wings at two state universities before she landed in the Iowa Central Community College aviation program. And she's glad she did.
"You feel like you can go anywhere or do anything almost," Fosse said about the feeling she gets when she's at the controls of a plane. "There's a whole different perspective from several thousand feet up."
Fosse, originally from Boone County, started out at Iowa State University after graduating from Ogden High School in 2006.
Nick Mitchell and Steve Leudtke, flight instructor, prepare for a plane ride at the Webster City Airport. There are currently 13 students enrolled in the Iowa Central Community College aviation program. The ground school and flight training is offered at the local airport.
Christa Fosse and Jeremy Cottingham stand next to one of the training planes at the Webster City Airport with instructor Ralph Storm.
"I wasn't sure what I wanted to do so I went to Iowa State for a couple of years," she said. She still wasn't sure of her career path, so she took off a couple semesters.
She eventually went back to school at ICCC where she obtained her associates degree. But it would take some time to settle on the aviation program. She thought perhaps teaching was in her future, so she enrolled at the University of Northern Iowa.
But that spark of interest had developed for the ICCC aviation program.
"I'd browsed the catalog and knew they had it here," she said. "So, I came back to try it out. And I'm still here."
Now in her second year with the program, Fosse said her previous knowledge about flying was limited to what most commercial air travelers experience.
She said that many people assume that graduates of the aviation program will go on to work for commercial airlines, but she explained that many options are open to those who complete the training.
"I'm still pretty open about the future. I would be alright working in survey work or cargo freight work. That's a great way to build up flight hours," she said. Working as a certified flight instructor isn't out of the question, either.
"I'm not sure about that yet, because I feel like I've still got a lot to learn myself," according to Fosse.
Students in the program take their general education classes at ICCC and the ground school and flight training is handled at the Webster City Airport. Ralph Storm, airport manager and owner of Storm Flying Service, serves as the chief instructor. Storm has been flying for more than 40 years and said he has about 44,000 hours of flight time.
"It's really a wonderful opportunity for these young people to go to school and learn to fly at the same time," he said, adding that the local airport offers the students a good example of the many types of flying - charter, crop spraying, cargo and more.
The ICCC aviation program started at the Webster City Airport in 1986 and has been running ever since. Some years, the program has seen a large enrollment, other years have been leaner, Storm said. Currently, there are 13 enrolled, including Fosse and three other female students.
"That's a good number, but we could always take some more. We've got room for more students," he said.
Storm said the students need a great deal of dedication to complete the requirements of the program, but those who have finished, have gone on to a variety of aviation careers.
"We see them when we're out on trips, they call in on the radio and often stop by," he said. Some of the graduates have stayed close to Webster City to serve as flight instructors for the school, Storm said.
"Not everybody finishes," he admitted. "It's not for everybody. It takes discipline to complete."
The length of the program varies from student to student, Fosse said.
Fosse said that while the flight school expensive, it was comparable to what people pursing a four-year degree might find.
Jeremy Cottingham, a graduate of South Hamilton High School, is nearing the completion of the program. Cottingham said thanks to the Trade Adjustment Act, he was able to enroll in the program.
He attended ICCC for a couple years and had hoped to go into the military, but was declined. To help pay for school, he went to work at Electrolux. After six months, the manufacturer shut its doors and Cottingham was among those laid off.
"I was lucky to have worked there long enough to get the benefit package and get the trade act assistance to pay for me to go back to school. Now, I'm finishing everything up," he said.
He plans to work as an instructor to help others to learn how to fly.
"My interest in flying started with my dad, who was in the Air Force for 22 years. I was around planes all the time and I've always been interested in flying," he said.
For more information on the aviation program, contact the Webster City Airport, 832-3723, or Iowa Central Community College, 832-1632.