Piloting his future: Joey Ermel — student pilot


Photo Courtesy of Joey Ermel

Ermel will be remembered by friends and family for his kindness towards others and passion for flying.

On June 15, 2018, junior Joey Ermel stepped into a plane by himself for the first time. After one last hug from his 82-year-old grandpa, Ermel secured his headset and took flight in a one-of-a-kind 1946 Aeronca Model 7 Champion, originally his grandfather’s from when he was a pilot.

Following in his grandfather’s footsteps, Ermel began his journey at the age of two and started flying a plane before he was driving.

Photo Courtesy of Joey Ermel
This is known as a Pilot Logbook. Similar to the tracking sheet given to students during Drivers Education, pilots use these books to keep track of their flying.

“I started training when I was 14. I soloed a plane on my 16th birthday, and right now I am studying for my written exam [for my license],” Ermel said. “Right now, I work three days a week [at Lewis University Airport]. If I work in the morning, I just go flying until sunset. Once I get my license, I want to be up there every day.”

Much like getting an education, learning to fly requires hours of training and practicing. Engineering teacher Brandy Palmerin had Ermel in her Introduction to Engineering Design class and recognized his determination in both engineering and flying.

“Joe worked very hard on all of our design projects and did good work. When he was given an option of what type of project to work on, he always chose something to do with planes,” Palmerin said. “Joe has a bright future, and I am more than impressed with his passion of flying. For him to take his love of flying and actively pursue getting a pilot license in high school speaks volumes.”

Long-time friend junior Sean Nolan shares Ermel’s love of flying; however, Nolan is more geared toward aeronautical designing rather than piloting. Through their friendship Nolan also recognized Ermel’s potential to have a successful career.

Photo Courtesy of Joey Ermel
Above is a page from Ermel’s Pilot Logbook. Every day, he keeps track of the hours he has flown and the landings he has finished.

“We started to know each other when we were in elementary school. … Whenever we are together, we like to share ideas about the future or build model aircraft. I believe that in the future he will continue his career in flying and will fly more commercially. … He is ready to be up early and get to where he needs to be and is ready to get his hands dirty to fix something or help everyone else,” Nolan said.

As of now, Ermel continues to fly solo any day the weather will permit it. Since that one flight on June 15, he has flown over 60 hours and finished over 300 landings.

Photo Courtesy of Joey Ermel
This plaque was given to Ermel as a memento of his first solo flight. His first flight was on his grandfather’s 1946 Aeronca Model 7 Champion airplane.


“It’s tough until you’ve done it. For me, it’s like walking — something you do every day. … It’s a lot of fun. I have a lot of fun with it. I love traveling. … I never get tired of flying. It’s just so inspiring,” Ermel said.

As the year progresses, Ermel is on track to become a fully licensed pilot by the age of 17.