Washougal High senior pilots plane for Prom night dinner in Salem

May 15, 2012

From left to right: Austin Black (pilot) and Amanda Szyplinski, Matt Wilson and Kesley Andrews, Jay Dally and Rachel Walters; these Washougal High seniors flew to Salem for Prom night dinner (contributed photo)
















Prom night can provide memories, and six Washoual high seniors will have a story to tell about theirs.

Eighteen year old Austin Black, a licensed pilot and senior at Washougal High School, flew himself, and his girlfriend, and four other seniors to Salem for Prom night dinner on Saturday April 21.

Preparing for flight (contributed photo)

The other passengers were Austin’s girlfriend of over 4 years, Amanda Szyplinski, and Matt Wilson and Kesley Andrews, and Jay Dally and Rachel Walters.   All are eighteen and seniors at Washougal High School.

According to Austin, he started flying when he was 14 years old, and did his first solo flight when he was 16.

“The day of my 17th Birthday (the first day I legally could) I attained my Single Engine Private Pilots license. Then before my 18th Birthday I attained my Private Pilot Multi-engine license. We flew [for the prom] in a Piper Aztec, which is a twin engine, six seat  plane with a cruise speed of around 175 Knots,” said Austin.

According to Austin, the ideas originally started as just a joke between him and his girlfriend.  But as prom time got closer, he began to explore airports which had restaurants near the field.

He ruled out airports near the ocean since weather can quickly change.  Looking inland, he picked McNary Field in Salem which  has a restaurant, the Flight Deck, and is also a favorite of Austin’s  flight instructor,  David Luse.

Getting all the parents on board was another process.

The seniors give a thumbs up as they prepare to take off (contributed photo)

Austin said “My parents and grandparents, who live right next door to me and co-own the aircraft with my father, loved the idea and even helped me plan it out. Other parents had mixed emotions but I talked to any who had questions and calmed their nerves with the facts.  Not to mention they all wanted to come to the airport and take pictures of the entire event, especially after they were more comfortable with the idea.”

Amanda’s parents are David and Sheila Szyplinski, Matt’s grandparents are David and Sheila Szyplinski, Kelsey’s parents are Cheryl and Scott Andrew, Jay’s parents are John and Kimberly Dally, and Rachel’s parents are Rod and Lisa Walters.

Austin Black pilots the Piper Aztec with his prom passengers on board (contributed photo)

All six seniors took off from Grove Field in Camas, Washington, then transitioned over Troutdale, Oregon,  and flew through Happy Valley for their landing on McNary Field in Salem, Oregon.

Upon landing, the group recognized many of the aircraft as planes from Grove Field.  Camas-Washougal Aviation Association (CWAA) had changed their dinner plans so they could take pictures of the dinner.  The group now swelled to 21.  The restaurant had been set up for only 40 people.

Amanda, Kelsey, and Rachel are all smiles aboard the plane (contributed photo)

“The service was great and they tried to keep up with us as much as possible but we were going to be late for prom so I quickly ate my Delicious steak and the rest of our party got their food to go and ate it [on] the scenic flight home,” said Austin.

The flight went without any hitches.  According to Austin, the weather was calm, there was absolutely no turbulence or wind, the visibility was greater than 10 miles and sky conditions were clear below 12,000 feet.   They flew at an altitude of 2500 feet, and their total flight time was 32 minutes each way.

Amanda Szyplinski and Austin Black (pilot) (contributed photo)

Austin, whose father is Craig Black and grandfather is Sherman Parks, has lived in Washougal since the age of 2.  His mother, Jennie, lives in California.

His plans are to complete the remaining 2 to 3 quarters left at Clark College, and tranfer to Central Washington University to pursue a Bachelors of Science degree through the aviation program.  He says he intends on becoming a commercial pilot, and is considering joining the US Air Force of Coast Guard.