Stonington senior will pursue lifelong passion for flying

Stonington High School senior Kyle Curtis poses with a 1972 PIPER PA-28-180 plane on Wednesday, May 24, 2017, during his job at Coastal Air at the Groton-New London Airport. Curtis has been flying planes since he was 10 years old and plans to be a flight instructor. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Stonington High School senior Kyle Curtis poses with a 1972 PIPER PA-28-180 plane on Wednesday, May 24, 2017, during his job at Coastal Air at the Groton-New London Airport. Curtis has been flying planes since he was 10 years old and plans to be a flight instructor. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

Stonington — When he was 8, Stonington High School senior Kyle Curtis would spend most summer days peering through the fence of the airport on Block Island, where he spent summers at his grandparents’ home.

He would either have his grandmother bring him to the airport or he would ride his bike there, so he could watch the small planes take off and land.

“Everyone else wanted to go to the beach but I wanted to go to the airport,” he said last week after going through a preflight check at Groton-New London Airport.

It wasn’t long, Curtis said, before the owner of New England Airlines “got sick of seeing me” and took him up for a ride.

Curtis was hooked.

He began flying at age 10, sitting on three telephone books with another three behind his back so he could reach the controls. A few years later, he began taking flying lessons at the Coastal Air flight school at Groton-New London Airport.

He spends most days there now after school and on weekends, working for the school and its sister business, Action Multi Ratings, handling administrative duties and helping customers.

Curtis took his first solo flight on his 16th birthday and earned his private pilot’s license at 17. Last summer, he was certified to fly twin-engine planes, and last fall he received his instrument rating to fly in bad weather.

He recently passed the written exam for his commercial pilot’s license and soon will take the flying portion of the exam.

By next winter, he plans to have become a certified flight instructor, which is the career path he plans to pursue, as well as being a charter pilot along the East Coast.

While he considered going to a traditional four-year college, Curtis has instead decided to become a flight instructor while earning his online degree in business from the Florida Institute of Technology, so he can better learn the business end of aviation.

He’s already landed a full-time job at the two businesses where he now works.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for me right here at the airport,” he said.

Curtis, the son of Sean Curtis and Bridget DeVirgilo, admits that he put more effort into flying than school but “I knew what I wanted to do and I wanted to secure the connections I would need when I got out of school.”

He said he had set a series of goals to become a flight instructor and he’s stuck to the ambitious timeline he set to accomplish them.

Curtis said he enjoys seeing the look of excitement on the faces of people who come back from their flying lessons and he wants to be part of that. He’s seen that look on the face of a few friends he has taken flying and who are now taking lessons themselves.

He said flying also has helped transform him from a “solitary, rather quiet person, to one who is outgoing and looking for a challenge.”

Curtis said he owes a lot of his success thus far to Ryan Gauthier, the owner of Coastal Air and Action Multi Ratings.

“He has unconditional trust in me, even when I screw up,” he said.

Gauthier said he began flying at a young age, as well.

“So when I look at Kyle, I feel like I’m looking at myself in the mirror,” he said. “His passion is a passion very few people have these days.”

Gauthier called Curtis very mature for his age, something that was very apparent with the ease in which Curtis answered questions posed to him about his love of flying and his future.

“He's very focused, he’s driven, he knows what he wants and he has a passion for aviation,” Gauthier added. “He’s such a pleasure to have around. We’re thankful to have him with us.”

j.wojtas@theday.com

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