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Airman's love of flight is something he has to share

by Nick Stubbs
Thunderbolt staff writer

When Senior Airman Mark Saviglia was a small boy, he liked to watch the airplanes take off and land at the airport. It might not have ever been anything more than a fascination with the defiance of gravity had it not been for a gift from his parents when he was 16.

The gift was an "discovery" flight in a small plane and the young Saviglia was hooked for life.

"I knew from that day I wanted to fly," said the enthusiastic air traffic controller, just moments after finishing up his shift in the MacDill tower.

Other memorable days in flight came after that first experience. One, Saviglia recalls, was "almost spiritual." It was on his first solo, when he became fully aware he was on his own, between the earth and clouds. It was so profound, he said, and a feeling that motivates him now, as he works his way toward a piloting job in the Air Force. It also is the driving force behind his newest endeavor - teaching others to fly.

Saviglia, who has some 300 hours of flight time in single-engine planes, recently began giving lessons - for free. At least to member of the military and their families, he said. It's his way of helping others with a passion for flight achieve what he has done.

"It's expensive to fly and to learn," said Saviglia, who conducts a free ground school and charges students only what it costs him to rent a plane whenever they train in the sky.

Saviglia said he particularly is interested in working with enlisted servicemembers but takes on any and all who want to learn. He flies out of Clearwater-St. Petersburg Airport and has access to a pair of single engine planes there. For Saviglia, flying is about the "consistent challenge" of changing conditions and establishing a "rapport with the environment."

"It (flying) is the most rewarding thing I can do with my life," said Saviglia. "There just is nothing like it."

Saviglia said it takes 40 hours of training to become a pilot. Additional training is required for an instrument rating and to get a commercial license. Saviglia said he spent $20,000 getting where he is today but says he is far from finished. Training on twin-engine planes is another step up but Saviglia says he will not be satisfied until he achieves his ultimate goal of flying in the Air Force.

"I love my county and I love flying," he said. "I can't think of anything that would be more rewarding than being able to combine the two."





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