Travis Gylling’s first time behind the controls of an airplane was hardly thrilling.
He was 16, a high school student in Ellensburg, Wash. It was a hot summer day. The Cessna 150 plane was heating up inside, and the flight was bumpy. Gylling threw up.
Yet, he did not abandon flying. Gylling, who’s now a flight instructor and a double-major at the University of North Dakota, is pursuing a career as a pilot. After all, aviation is a family thing. Both of Gylling’s grandfathers served in the U.S. Air Force, and a great uncle was a medevac pilot during the Vietnam War, later becoming an airport manager. And as a child, Gylling would spend hours at the Seattle Flight Museum with his older brother.
“Describing flight is very challenging, but the feeling you get from flying an airplane is extraordinary,” Gylling said. “To leave earth and get airborne is amazing.”
After obtaining his private pilot license in 2016, Gylling arrived on the UND campus, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in aviation management in December. He’ll earn his degree in commercial aviation in May.
Since that first flight, Gylling has built not only the stamina of a pilot but also the expertise. He doesn’t shy away from aerobatics, or executing intricate maneuvers in the air. He can flip and spin and loop and roll.
“If you’ve been on a roller coaster, it’s like that, but you’re on the flight controls,” Gylling said. “We’re unique here at UND because we have aerobatic training.”
He also credits being involved as a key to his success at UND. Arriving on campus not knowing anyone, Gylling was involved with numerous student groups on campus and volunteered in the Grand Forks community.
In 2018, Gylling became a flight instructor. On any given day, he might have as many as five flights with students, each usually taking about 40 minutes in the air. His students come from all 50 states and abroad.
“I absolutely love my job right now,” he said. “It’s a great way to learn more and hand those skills down to the next generation of pilots.”
Come this May, however, Gylling will graduate, and he plans to fly for a regional airline in the Pacific Northwest. He hopes to one day fly for a large, national airline. But Gylling says he will miss UND.
“My favorite flight at UND is still yet to come,” he said. “My last day at UND will be the Friday of finals week this year. I'm not really looking forward to it because I don’t want it to end.”