Never underestimate the dreams of a 3-year-old.
That is a lesson learned by the family of Marc Belley, a fourth-year student in the University of Maine at Augusta’s (UMA) Aviation program. As Maine’s only Baccalaureate degree program in Aviation, UMA is an affordable gateway to an aviation career with unparalleled flexibility and potential.
Belley has done much of his course work through University College at Rockland, traveling to Augusta for the aviation requirements of the program.
The newest addition to the Aviation Program is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or “drone” course that prepares students to sit for the FAA exam and earn a commercial license.
Though UAV’s are of interest to Marc, his focus on becoming a commercial pilot remains firm. It is a focus that he has maintained from early childhood, never deviating by expressing dreams of playing for the Boston Red Sox or forming a rock band. Compared to aviation, throngs of adoring fans simply couldn’t compete.
Exploring a Limitless Horizon
“I always associated flying with freedom,” Marc said. “When I joined my family on trips I always got the window seat and tried to see the cockpit.” Later on, as an aviation student at UMA, his expectations were confirmed.
“I started flying at 12 when my grandfather got me a flight lesson for my birthday,” Marc added.
“Flight is very free,” Marc explained. “You’re in complete control of what you are doing. I like seeing the world from a different perspective. It is amazing, too, how close everything is when your means of transportation is flight. I am just able to experience the world differently as a pilot.”
Growing up in Rockport, Maine, Marc developed a fascination with all things aviation. Pinpointing whether it was a toy, glimpse of a plane flying overhead, or some other event that formed his fascination with aviation is next to impossible. There was just never a time when his biggest interest was something else … even girls.
His longtime girlfriend, Violet Bemis, is Rockport native and a UMA Computer Information Systems major with a concentration in web design. She takes the majority of her classes online or at the University College Center in Rockland, which delivers UMA degrees at eight Centers in communities across Maine. She knew what she was accepting when she started spending time with Marc. Thankfully Violet did not have a fear of flying.
Violet decided early on that Marc’s flight training schedule was less a burden than blessing. Trust was a factor, too, since each time she accompanied Marc for a flight the fact is that her life was quite literally in his hands.
A World of Possibilities
Marc proved to be both trustworthy and a constant source of information. Each flight Marc would spend his time narrating the scenery, weather, flight conditions, and other topics. Violet brought along her camera and to document their flights. There is not a single milestone in Marc’s UMA degree program that Violet has not witnessed, from flying multi-engine planes to landing at night.
Though he was focused on a career in aviation, like many students he hit a rough patch in middle school. He was not living up to his potential. Marc’s grandparents and parents mused on how to refocus his abundant energy back on educational attainment.
The solution was more carrot than stick.
“My grandparents offered me an amazing opportunity, matched by my parents,” Marc explained. “For every quarter that I was on the Dean’s list I would earn a 1 hour flight lesson.” It didn’t take long for Marc to make the Dean’s List and stay on it.
When it came time to choose a next step after graduating from Camden Hills Regional High School in 2013, he applied to several of the most prestigious – and expensive — residential aviation programs in the United States. They saw his experience, academic preparation, and love of flying. With acceptance letters in hand, Marc’s Aviation career seemed ready … ahem … to take flight. That’s when he learned of the Bachelor’s degree program in Aviation at UMA.
Not only was UMA’s Aviation program close to his Rockport home, the program featured ample flying time, a state-of-the-art simulator, and instruction by pilots with decades of experience. He would graduate as a flight instructor ready to pursue a number of career paths, from instruction to commercial aviation.
A Great Advantage at a Young Age
“The program at UMA has been ideal for me,” Marc said. So is the thought that he will have earned the same degree as the other programs he first considered at a fraction of the cost.
“I think that from beginning to end I will have saved about $100,000 on college tuition by attending UMA,” Marc enthused. “When you are faced with the actuality of paying back debt, you’re glad to realize what a good decision you made by choosing to save.”
That’s not to say that attending UMA’s Bachelor’s degree program in Aviation required sacrifice.
“The knowledge of flying that I have gained through UMA’s program has been exceptional,” Marc stated. “I learned flight theory, FAA regulations, aerodynamics, and much more. I also learned to teach flying, which requires a higher level of understanding because you are having to break down everything to the simplest component for student pilots.”
When the time comes, Marc will decide whether to start his career close-to-home or branch out. As for Violet, who will graduate from UMA in two years, she will be considering her own options after graduation. Which is not to say that the two career paths need be separated by hundreds or even thousands of miles.
Even if the years after Marc graduates lead him far afield, Violet isn’t concerned.
“Pilots don’t judge distance the same way that most people do,” noted Violet. “They’re always close by, wherever they live.”