Abigail Minch Marketing and Communications Coordinator NW Wings Aviation
Alberto Bernaola’s pilot career started in the cockpit of a Pan American World Airway plane at the age of 5-years-old. Although he didn’t gain his Private Pilot License until many years later in 2023, he came to the realization of wanting to become a pilot at that moment.
Bernaola was moving from Puerto Rico to Germany and, while flying to his new home for the first time, he was invited into the cockpit.
“They asked me if I wanted to go in the cockpit and I think I was five years old,” Bernaola said. “I knew I loved it and that’s what I wanted to do.”
Bernaola says that growing up in Europe was fun because aviation was a large part of the culture there. He spent a lot of his childhood at airport observation decks watching planes taking off and landing.
After Highschool, Bernaola joined the U.S. Army working in flight operations. After serving he continued to work in aviation in customer service for an airline company.
He went on to earn his FAA- Certificated Aviation Maintenance Technicians (AMT) and is now a Director of Maintenance for private business jets.
In 2023, Bernaola said that thanks to working mostly remote with flexible hours, he had the right amount of time in his schedule to think about working toward his pilot goals. Just in time for his spring birthday, he gifted himself with the first steps toward his private pilot license dreams.
In May, Bernaola started training with NW Wings Aviation. As a AMT with years in business he knew what he was looking for when it came to his pilot training. After calling around different schools in the area, he knew that NW Wings Aviation hit all the marks and was the right match.
“There were no question marks about the school. The schedule and flexibility was great. The pricing was great,” Bernaola said. “The schedule and the way the structure is built is very good. The syllabus that Elad (the Founder and CEO) has for the CFI’s and for the ground school was really good. I really liked it.”
Attending NW Wings Aviation’s ground training over zoom with flexible scheduling in the evenings was perfect for his travel schedule that came with his career. His flight training with the school took place in a Cessna 172 out of Hillsboro Airport (KHIO). Bernaola said that the Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) followed the syllabus carefully while upholding the quality training within the structure that still fit within his schedule.
In July, Bernaola had his first solo flight.
“Mentally, I was prepared. My confidence was high. I did my solo. Everything went perfect. I had no issues. Actually to this day, I think my best landing was my first solo landing,” Bernaola said.
By August (within 4 months), Bernaola completed training and had his private pilot license.
Since August, 2023, Bernaola has enjoyed taking family on flights over Portland and to nearby airports. He’s looking forward to gaining more cross country flight experience so that he can take family along on longer flights.
Bernaola also hopes to gain his instrument rating in 2024 which would allow him to gain confidence flying in bad weather. He says this would be most helpful in winter months here in Oregon where the weather is inhibiting his flying time.
“I've noticed over the last few months, I haven’t been able to fly a lot. One, because I've been traveling for work. But, also, when I am here, the weather's not good enough. If I had an instrument rating, the weather would be less of an issue,” Bernaola said.
Other future goals for Bernaola include getting his commercial license and he is also considering becoming a Certified Flight Instructor.
Since looking back at his journey toward getting his Private Pilot License, Bernaola says the one thing he wishes he did differently is start training earlier.
“I wish I would have done it sooner,” said Bernaola. “Everyone says that. It's cliche, but it’s true. I wish I would have done it sooner.”
Thank you to Alberto Bernaola for choosing us to pursue your aviation goals and for being featured in this article! We look forward to more flying with you.
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Photos Provided by: Alberto Bernaola
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