Ulster BOCES Aviation Program Graduate Takes Wing as Apache Pilot

Ulster BOCES Aviation Program Graduate Takes Wing as Apache Pilot

Ulster BOCES means different things to different people. According to United States Army Warrant Officer Daniel Pavlak, Ulster BOCES was the foundation under his wings. Daniel has been looking skyward with dreams of piloting since early childhood. Finding clever ways to get into the sky—such as joining the Young Eagles club at Kingston Airport to receive free lessons and flight time—could only propel him so high. What Daniel needed was a runway. 

So in 2008 when his school counselor at Saugerties Senior High School suggested the Ulster BOCES Career & Technical Center’s Aviation program, Daniel’s heart soared. “I wanted to do something that other people could not do,” he explained. “I wanted a unique skill.”

Daniel, who said he grew up reading books and watching history documentaries on helicopters, enthusiastically enrolled in the Aviation program with the intention of receiving his private pilot’s license and pursuing a career in military aviation. He completed the program in 2010, and graduated from high school with a Regents diploma. 

Following his high school graduation, Daniel attended Dutchess Community College (DCC), where he studied Aviation Management and completed his pilot’s training. Daniel then transferred to SUNY Plattsburgh, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in History. After college, Daniel enlisted in the United States Army and did a tour in Afghanistan from 2017 through 2018 and in Europe from 2019 through 2020. Daniel humbly says he was “lucky enough” to be selected for, and to graduate from, the U.S. Army Flight School. 

Daniel is now one of the newest Apache attack helicopter pilots with the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York. “Where I fly right now at Fort Drum is Class D airspace,” he said. “I know everything I have to do in Class D airspace because of BOCES–literally, foundational information. At DCC and even flight school, I knew more than some of the people there…I knew how to get around an airport and talk on the radio already.”

Though his arrival could be described as a “direct flight,” it was not without some turbulence, suggested Daniel, who said that he “had to work twice as hard to get half as far” when it came to math and science. He never really learned how to study until flight school, he explained. Learning how to retain information involved long hours in the library where he copied chapters verbatim to help memorize the content.

Daniel said that he has used lessons learned from his instructors at Ulster BOCES throughout his professional journey. “I had a leg up in training when I was already familiar with things like airspace or ‘Bernoulli’s principle’ and, when competing with some of the best and brightest men and women America has to offer, one takes every advantage one can get,” he said. “The opportunity that Ulster BOCES gives young people is unknown anywhere else.”

Daniel said that no matter where he goes, mentioning that he began his flight training at the age of 16 for free through a vocational school “has always been met with jealousy and amazement.” Most of his colleagues in aviation, he added, have said that they wish they had the same opportunity. 

After his current enlistment concludes, Daniel plans to put his History degree to use in the National Park Service or at the Army University Press and just “fly for fun.” 

Daniel hopes to see the Ulster BOCES Aviation/Drone program continue for many years. “Not just for those who want to join the military or want to fly commercial airlines, but for every young person who looks into the air and wonders if they have what it takes to fly an airplane,” he said.  “A place where it doesn’t matter where you come from, but everyone is placed on an even footing, given quality instruction and encouragement.” Quoting from John Gillespie Magee, Jr.’s poem High Flight, Daniel expresses his wish for students to have the opportunity to be able to say they have “slipped the surly bonds of Earth and dance the skies on laughter-silvered wings.”

The Ulster BOCES Career & Technical Center’s Aviation/Drone program provides high school juniors and seniors with a basic knowledge of aviation. Successful completion of this two-year program enables the students–referred to as “young professionals” at Ulster BOCES–to be eligible for a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved pilot’s certificate as either a private or remote pilot. The young professionals are exposed to the operation of single engine airplanes and drones and learn about aviation history, engines, aircraft systems, instruments, meteorology, flight environment, communications, aircraft performance, human factors, and the principles of flight. 

Lessons on navigation and cross-country flying, along with flight planning, prepare the young professionals to log actual flight time in single engine aircraft at a local airport. The program also equips them for the FAA private pilot knowledge exam and the remote pilot exam. 

Academic instruction in New York State Learning Standards in English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science is integrated into the curriculum, which provides the opportunity to earn credits in English, Math, and Science. 

For more information about the Ulster BOCES Aviation/Drone program, please visit https://bit.ly/43riUU9.

Daniel Headshot
Daniel Family


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