Sander Leszczynsky is taking off!


Courtesy of Sander Leszczynsky

Smiling in his natural element, Leszczynsky soars miles high in the sky.

When the skies are clear and there is minimal wind on Saturday mornings, you might be able to catch a glimpse of senior Sander Leszczynsky soaring above the Golden Gate Bridge in a glossy, white Cessna 172.

“There was no definite time I [was] inspired. I remember how traveling on airlines was the best part of the trip. [My family] would go to the East Coast every summer. Sure, the East Coast is fun, but traveling on the plane, meeting the pilots and flying in the sky was always the coolest part,” Leszczynsky said. 

When Leszczynsky was very young, there wasn’t much he could do to explore his interest in planes. Alternatively, he downloaded a flying simulator on his computer to practice with until he was older. 

At age 14, Leszczynsky began studying for what would be the first step in the long process of becoming a pilot—a 50 question multiple choice test. He explained the process is somewhat similar to getting a driver’s license—which he happened to get one year after his pilot’s license. A car was not his first choice of machinery! After passing the multiple choice test, students must complete a series of lessons in a plane with an instructor until they are capable of flying solo. 

“My first solo flight was funny because when I was flying with my instructor, I would always talk myself through it out loud. ‘Okay, airspeeds good.’ But by myself, I was still talking out loud,” Leszczynsky said. 

Although he looks back on his first flight with laughter, the lesson meant he was one step closer to getting his license, which felt like a huge success. 

Courtesy of Sander Leszczynsky
Flying above Marin’s grassy landscape, Leszczynsky prepares for future endeavors next year at aviation school.

As a little boy envious of pilots on his trips to the East Coast, Leszczynsky has come a long way. In the fall of next year, Leszczynsky will be attending Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona, in hopes of receiving a Bachelor’s degree of Science in Aeronautical Science. Currently, Leszczynsky has a private pilot license which means he can fly other people in a small plane whenever he wants, weather permitting. However, if he ends up wanting to fly for an airline, he will have to pass a long series of tests. 

Senior and close friend of Leszczynsky’s, Isaak Kreft, says over the past couple of years, their friendship has undergone changes to accommodate Leszczynsky’s hectic schedule.

“For example, Friday is my 18th birthday, and I wanted to see if he could hang out, but his response was ‘Of course I want to hang but I can’t stay out too late because I have a flight on Saturday,’” Kreft said. 

Instructor John Ward, who has worked closely with Leszczynsky, agrees with Kreft on his dedication. 

“This has been his goal for the past couple of years and when Sander puts his mind to something, he gets it done,” Ward said.

 He also explained that Leszczynsky was able to conceptualize aviation immediately. In other words, he feels at one with the aircraft. 

“Sander is quite mature for his age. I was able to treat him as an adult when he started at the age of 14. He is outgoing—an easy conversationalist. He is highly motivated about aviation and focused on his career path in that field. He has innate traits that allow him to be a superior pilot,” Ward said. 

When Leszczynsky was training to fly solo, he met all the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulation tasks and Ward said the FAA examiner was extremely impressed.

“My expectations far exceed the FAA minimums. We trained to the thought that ‘What could go wrong will go wrong.’ He was ready for any of it,” Ward said. 

To Leszczynsky, flying is a priority, but not a chore or an inconvenience. He thinks of it as a way to take his mind off things whether that be a rough day at school or an argument with a friend.

Courtesy of Sander Leszczynsky
Looking out on the Golden Gate Bridge, Leszczynsky flies on a sunny Saturday.

“For me, flying is not just a career path. It truly is therapy. When I am up there, I am focused on the task at hand. In a weird way, it clears my mind. It never ceases to amaze me,” Leszczynsky said. 

“I take this object that is heavier than air, and with extreme technological advances, I defy gravity. I do something only birds can do. It challenges me every time and I love that,” Leszczynsky said.