Will Magnuson has a long to-do list for the summer.

The rising senior at Stone Memorial High School recently took part in the Tennessee American Legion Boys State program and a summer seminar with the U.S. Naval Academy. 

He’s a on the SMHS Student Council, a member of the school’s golf and baseball teams, and he’s an active member of the crowd for other athletic events. And, he’s working on his Eagle Scout project with the Boy Scouts of America, with plans to attend Scout camp in the summer.

He’s also working toward earning his private pilot license, completing the written test by the end of the summer.

“I need a little more flight time, so I’m working with the instructor,” said Magnusson.

Several years ago, Magnusson attended Space Camp, with dreams of one day becoming an astronaut.

Now, as he gets closer to finalizing his post-high school plans, he’s open to other career opportunities — though flying remains at the heart of what he wants to do.

“I’m thinking I can get a good, stable job in the airlines after the military, and I can be flying my entire life,” Magnusson said.

But he’s not turning away from his dream of flying. He plans to study engineering in college, either at the U.S. Naval Academy or a school with a strong ROTC program.

“If I get accepted to test pilot school after college, I’m going to go for it,” Magnusson said. “I haven’t forgotten about it, but there’s several options I’m learning about.”

Magnusson has completed all the aviation technology courses offered at Stone Memorial High School with teacher Chris Bennett, who has also helped keep Magnusson’s interest in aviation alive.

Magnusson’s dad, Bo Magnusson, is also a pilot, and he’s helped Will follow his dream.

Last September, Bo took Will to Crossville Memorial Airport to talk with instructor Thomas Leverich, who had studied aviation at SMHS when Bo taught the class.

“He’s been with me the entire time. Having someone I knew made it easier to talk with and understand what I needed to do,” Magnusson said.

Training began Sept. 11. Will completed seven flight hours and completed his first solo on Sept. 20.

“My main goal was to solo before I got my driver’s license,” he said. “I solo’d that day and then went and got my driver’s license.”

His flight took him over Crossville, following specified traffic patterns.

Will has also logged a lot of time on flight simulators at school and at home. 

“With COVID last year, I was spending a lot of time on the simulator,” he said.

He logged about 1,580 hours on the flight simulator, joking that he had enough time logged to be a commercial pilot.

“Whenever I’m not flying, I’m practicing,” he said.

Will credits much of his success to his dad’s support. When Will is flying, Bo is usually at the airport with a transponder following the flight and waiting on the tarmac.

“He’s there for support, and he’s doing a real good job at that,” said Magnusson.

When the historic Ford Tri-Motor visited the airport in May, Bo bought Will a ticket to fly up front with the pilot.

“I got to fly it a little bit,” said Will. 

He added the flight to his log book.

Magnusson was selected to participate in the U.S. Naval Academy’s summer seminar, held virtually this year for Naval Academy or Navy ROTC prospects.

“You learn about what life at the Naval Academy is like,” he said. “If it was in-person, I’d be going and staying in the dorm with one of the midshipmen, but this is going to be leadership training and tell us what to expect.”

After college, he hopes to serve in the U.S. Navy, which he hopes will help him complete additional flight training. He plans to serve active duty and remain in the reserves through his career.

“It’s the same goal I’ve had since I was 4 — I’ve always wanted to fly in the military and be an astronaut,” he said. 

Next year, Cumberland County schools will integrate flight training with its Career and Technical Education aviation technology programs. Working in cooperation with Crossville Memorial Airport’s fixed-base operator Azure Flight Support, the new program will offer entry-level training for students interested in flying and maintenance technician careers.

That includes ground school, simulator training and flight training, with training in drone flight as well.

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.

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