Taking to the skies

UK’s Gretchen Giesler attempts the kill against Michigan State during the first round of the NCAA Volleyball Tournament at Memorial Coliseum on Friday, Dec. 4, 2009. The Cats defeated the Spartans in three sets to advance to the second round. Photo by Scott Hannigan

Some people hate planes, and some people love them. Some people are scared to ever leave the ground, and some people dream of being high in the sky.

But for Gretchen Giesler, a middle blocker for the UK volleyball team, flying is not just a dream, it’s a reality.

Gretchen is currently working toward earning her pilot’s license, allowing her the ability to fly certain planes on her own. Currently, she has her student pilot certificate and is well on her way to getting her license.

For Gretchen, flying is a family affair, so becoming interested in flying planes was no surprise.

“I have been interested (in flying) for, I want to say three of four years now,” Giesler said. “My dad is a pilot so that’s how I got into it. My uncle is also a pilot and my grandpa and great uncle were pilots, but I don’t think they kept their licenses.”

Giesler is learning how to fly numerous different planes in order to earn her license. Having been in planes with her father, other relatives, or family friends for years now, she has plenty of experience as a passenger. Now, it is her turn to be the pilot, and she is looking forward to getting behind the wheel of all the planes in which she used to only be a passenger.

“I really like aerobatic planes, the ones that do all the turns and flips and stuff,” Giesler said. “If you have that type of certified plane you can do them. My dad’s friend has that type of plane, and I have been with him when he has done those tricks, but I’ve never done them myself.”

Gretchen is in no rush to earn her license. Only a junior at UK, she is able to pick up and put down her hobby as her schedule with school and volleyball allows for it, and once she finally does earn her license she will have it for life.

“It’s not a license, it’s really a certificate, so it’s good for life,” Giesler said. “You just really have to be up to date, which means keeping your medical (records) up to date. I’m young so I don’t have to update my medical as much, but once you hit that 50 mark you have to do it almost every year.”

In addition to an up-to-date medical, you also have to log hours in the cockpit flying planes. But during the season, Giesler is too busy to find time to work towards earning her license, so right now her flying career is on hold until the Cats (11-12, 5-7 SEC) end their season this winter.

“I hope that the weather is able, so that over winter break I can work on it, but during school and during the season it’s really busy. I don’t fly during the season,” Giesler said.

After earning her license, Gretchen, a two-time All-SEC Academic Team member involved in the engineering program, hopes to one day be able to work with planes as a career.

“Right now (flying) is just a hobby,” Giesler said, “but it would be really cool if I could tie it into work. Right now I am in engineering so if I could work with planes that would be cool to be able to do something I like.”