Reynolds high in the sky


Photo provided by Will Mensh

Senior Will Mensh standing atop an airplane, which he has been able to fly since his 16th birthday.

Jackson Fromm, Online Editor

At RJ Reynolds High School, we have proof that the sky isn’t always the limit. Bright and talented students are taking to the air with their aviation skills, soaring to new heights in their field. 

Many students who are active in aviation are involved in Career Center’s Aviation Course, where students can learn the technologies and systems of aircrafts in a smaller, but just as functional, plane hangar. Junior Zora Yap is one of these students. While she may not do all of the hands-on work, Yap takes on leadership and management roles in the class.

After starting class with some math problems from the book, Yap said that she will hit the shop to work on her current project. Right now, it is her safety wiring project. In addition to her leadership roles, Yap isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty with some mechanical work.

Zora Yap (left) working in the Career Center aviation workshop. (Photo provided by Yap)

“I think my favorite project was fixing the ailerons, on the side of the plane,” Yap said. “I was really hands-on with that project and it was a really difficult one, but it was nice at the end when we got it all done.”

Outside of the classroom, Yap has acquired aviation inspiration from her parents. Her mom is in the aviation industry and is a role model to Yap as a woman in STEM. Her dad is also in the industry, specifically working with drone technology. Drones are Yap’s main aviation passion.

Most of her aviation experience came from growing up around her dad’s work. Being with her dad has given Yap an abundance of  hands-on, in-person experiences

“Outside of school I have gone to work with him a lot and it’s just really interesting to learn about sites where they do drone delivery and the different drones that they use for that,” Yap said. “A lot of drones surprisingly have been used to help with stuff like recent tornadoes or hurricanes. My dad has had to fly out to sites to just do drone scanning and get a map of the area and the water and stuff there. That’s really interesting and I got to help out with that.”

Yap is fascinated by the ways that drone technology can be used to improve our world, and with her special insight, she is able to see it in action, even locally. 

“Using drones and different technologies that make this day and age more advanced [interests me],” Yap said. “I think that it’s really interesting that places like Baptist Health are now using drones to deliver blood to scenes that need blood. I just think that it’s really interesting.”

While she is only a student herself, Yap has expressed her passion for drones by spreading it to the youth. Last summer, she taught classes to kids at Winston Salem State University, hoping to spark their interest in the ever-evolving and important field. 

“At Winston Salem State University, we had lessons for kids to learn how to fly small Tello drones,” Yap said. “We also taught them about the need and usage of unmanned aircraft.”

Yap will fully take off in her studies of aviation in college, where she plans to study the field. While she is currently unsure of where she wants to take her life in aviation after her studies, she is excited to see what college can offer her.

Other Reynolds students learn aviation privately, outside of school. On many kids’ 16th birthdays, they jump up and down when they finally get a hold of their driver’s license. For senior Will Mensh, the milestone was more monumental, as he obtained a different kind of license: a pilot’s license. 

“My family has a history of aviation, my mom moved to Winston Salem because my grandfather was a top executive of Piedmont Airlines,” Mensh said. “He was a pilot himself and I always thought it would be so cool to become one myself.”

The path to getting his license came with a little turbulence. 60 hours of in-flight training, plus 20 hours of ground school, where Mensh learned the principles of flight and aspects of navigation, were required along the way. Though Mensh said this process taught him some valuable life lessons.

The complicated controls of Mensh’s plane are tricky to get the hang of – but once they’re learned, it’s smooth sailing. (Photo provided by Will Mensh)

“I learned that you have to be patient, the basics of flight are very complicated and it does take a while to fully understand everything, and it does become frustrating when you’re flying 2-3 times a week and you still can’t figure it out,” Mensh said. “So I would say patience and attention to detail are the two things I learned.”

Mensh said that he tries to take to the air at least once every month. The ability for him to fly has provided him with some fond family memories.

“The coolest thing I’ve done is flown my dad and I down to this BBQ restaurant in Pinehurst called Pik N Pig, where the restaurant is right off the runway,” Mensh said. “So we flew in, had lunch, and then we flew back home.”

Mensh does not have any other specific goals for aviation or flying, but hopes for it to be something he continues in the future.

“I had always dreamed of being able to fly.” Mensh said. “I would like to own a plane when I’m older and use it for travel and business.”

For both Yap and Mensh, aviation has been something that has connected them to their families as well as themselves, as they’ve learned lessons and found an interest that has led to lots of exploration and learning. Be sure to keep looking up – you may see a fellow Demon flying in the sky.