At age six, Mac Bradley ’22 caught the aviation bug. That’s when he took his first commercial flight and decided right then and there that he wanted to become a pilot.
He has never wavered, so it comes as no surprise that “Top Gun” is one of his all-time favorite movies.
“While I didn’t understand it at such a young age, I was always fascinated by flying. Later on, after meeting some pilots and talking with people in the airline industry, I realized that I could actually become a professional pilot,” Mac reports. “And it was during COVID-19 that I was able to begin to make that happen.”
When travel was curtailed, there was a pandemic silver lining for Mac; he had the time to dedicate to flying lessons and started logging the hours in the air required to get a pilot’s license. He attended an aviation school in Harrison, NY, and began taking two-hour flights every two weeks to become eligible for the exam. When Mac hit the 52-hour mark, he earned his wings.
Now with over 80 hours as “pilot in command,” Mac shares how exhilarating it is to fly solo with words like “thrilling,” “joy,” and “euphoria” — ”the feeling of freedom is unmatched” — and he is well on his way to realizing his dream.
With a spark of genius ignited early on, Mac found ways to pursue his passion in the Dwight classroom. He began by exploring aerodynamics and efficiency using model airplanes for his fifth grade PYP Exhibition project. Now he is finishing his IB DP Extended Essay on how space travel and zero gravity affect the body, which is timely with the emergence of commercialized space travel. Mac was inspired to research this topic by the physiology he learned in one of his favorite classes, Sports Exercise and Health Sciences. As the corollary, Mac has drawn on his classroom learning in Physics to help him in flight school; theoretical concepts suddenly had real-world applications when he sat behind the controls.
It takes a certain mindset to enter the cockpit and feel comfortable in the pilot’s seat — and Mac definitely has it! He is independent, calm, and confident, as well as cautious.
“My first solo flight and the first time I landed a plane without assistance from the instructor was nerve-wracking,” Mac reports, and he did so before his 17th birthday. “But now there’s a great feeling of accomplishment. Everything in aviation is experience, with its best and worst — experience is the best teacher.”
A Smooth Dwight Journey
Mac appreciates the flexibility Dwight has offered in support of his passion. With an hour commute each way to Harrison from his home on the Upper West Side, Mac needed at least three hours before school began and was able to schedule classes a little later in the mornings. Similarly, with evening flight lessons, he needed some flexibility around classroom assignments so that he could achieve his flying and academic goals simultaneously.
Now in his 15th year at Dwight, Mac first became a Lion in our Preschool 2s program, making our School his home away from home. “I’ve built so many great relationships with teachers and staff, who have seen me grow up, and I have so many great memories from over the years. Dwight is such an incredible school and community in which everyone knows and supports each other,” he says.
In addition to his passion for flying, Mac is an avid photographer and videographer. He has devoted much of his time outside of School to these interests — and has also lent his expertise to Dwight by taking photos for us!
Last year, Mac began learning about film in our two-year IB HL Film class, which is designed to develop students as proficient interpreters and makers of film. ”Dwight has a robust film program,” Mac says. “We’ve been learning to master cinematic skills and develop a scene physically, build storylines, and to create a compelling product. We also have the freedom to learn more about what interests us through a number of different projects, which is great.”
With his eye clearly focused on becoming a commercial pilot, Mac set his sights on applying to colleges with aviation programs and was accepted into one of his top choices. As his journey at Dwight comes to a close, we know that he will take off successfully — and soar — at great heights wherever he goes and for many years to come!
Hear more from Mac about flying below.