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Eric Bykowsky Exercises Control and Freedom in Flying and Soccer

Eric Bykowsky Exercises Control and Freedom in Flying and Soccer

Many student-athletes from Carnegie Mellon University have the opportunity to fly commercially for competitions, but junior men's soccer player, Eric Bykowsky's love for flying means more than just being a passenger; he would rather be up in the cockpit.

Bykowsky has loved flying and planes from the time his dad started taking him to air shows as a child, which progressed to a flight simulator video game.  When Bykowsky turned 16, he begged his parents to let him take flight lessons so he could take a test to get his private pilot license.

"My parents weren't huge fans at first because flying is a money pit with aviation gas around six dollars a gallon and the aircraft burns it quick, but they are extremely supportive now and have gone to fly with me as passengers," Bykowsky said.

When Bykowsky isn't busy with school and soccer he heads out to Zelienople, Pennsylvania to the Condor Aero Club where he and 100 other pilots share six planes, mostly Cessna 172 single-engine aircrafts. 

"I will fly until I lose my medical license," Bykowsky said. "Eventually I plan to have my own private plane and use it for vacations or to travel for business instead of flying commercially.  It is really fun and I hope to keep building my licenses and possibly become a certified flight instructor."

Currently, on Saturday, October 25 Bykowsky is planning a flight to Penn State University to meet some friends for the football game against Ohio State, but before he takes off he will have to make sure the conditions are good and he is ready to fly.

Before every flight it is required to check the aircraft and its systems, which takes approximately 10 minutes to complete.  Bykowsky will also have to check the fuel level.  It is really important to complete all preflight checks because a lot of accidents have occurred from neglecting that process.

Bykowsky loves the freedom and control of being the pilot of an aircraft, so being a passenger on a commercial flight makes him a little antsy as he would rather be in the cockpit.

"Most people on a commercial flight just sit there on the plane and watch everything happen, but they have no idea what is going on up in the cockpit," Bykowsky said. "To be in control of all the different factors in an aircraft and have the freedom to make the ultimate decisions is a lot of fun."

There are a lot of factors to take into account and a lot to coordinate in the cockpit as a pilot.  To feel a little more in control during a commercial flight Bykowsky has an application on his phone where he can see the route the pilots are going to take and follow the flight. 

"I think the fact that being a pilot is so leadership oriented where you have to take command of the aircraft, make sure all the systems are functioning and make sure the plane is going in the right direction while coordinating everything else in the cockpit is really similar to what I do as a goalkeeper," Bykowsky said.

"As a goalkeeper, you are constantly telling the defense where to go and what to do and when to step to balls while coordinating everything in the field of play," Bykowsky continued.

Bykowsky has been in the goal four games in the 2014 season and believes the men's soccer program has taken positive strides since the season began.

"Having Coach Bowman as our head coach has been absolutely awesome and he has really changed around our defensive system since preseason which is benefitting our team immensely and the offense is on an upward progression," Bykowsky said. "I wouldn't say we are where we want to be yet, because with anything you always want to be improving, but everything is coming together really well."

As a student-athlete in the Tepper School of Business, Bykowsky moved from marketing to finance and believes in the benefits of a Carnegie Mellon education.

"We pay a lot to go here and some of the things we pay for are recognition, an alumni network, and the opportunity to build yourself and have intellectual conversations with people who are on the same wave length as you and are interested in the same things," Bykowsky said.  "Surrounding yourself with those types of people during a college experience really builds you up intellectually."

Last summer Bykowksy interned at Textron, the conglomerate that owns Beechcraft, Cessna and Hawker brand aircrafts.  During his internship he worked at the company's corporate headquarters in marketing.

"It was an awesome experience in marketing where I integrated their business units with marketing strategies and worked on some sponsorship proposals," Bykowsky said. "I can ultimately see myself pursuing a career in aerospace."

Bykowsky has thought about consulting after graduation, possibly with an aerospace slant and then entering more into the direction of aerospace as his career develops.

Thanks to the Business Opportunities Conference (BOC) held by the university each year Bykowsky has the opportunity to look at aerospace companies  in attendance such as Boeing, the largest global aircraft manufacturers and the second-largest aerospace and defense contractor in the world, as he looks to enter the business world.

"Compared to other University Athletic Association (UAA) schools, Carnegie Mellon was superior to me because it seemed more academically focused in my area of study," Bykowsky said. "We have a business school and a four-year business program with programs like the BOC and I feel as though I have really been able to be completely immersed into the business world."

As Bykowsky continues to study marketing and search for opportunities in the business world he remains focused on the men's soccer schedule as the team is 8-4-1 and looks forward to the next time he'll be in the air for something other than travel with the team.