Mar 102010
Authors: Kate Frasure

A computerized female voice blasted from the gauge panel of Captain Rick Birt’s King Air twin-turboprop aircraft, instructing him to correct his flight pattern.

“I hate that dumb woman,” the captain said as he careens into a barrel roll over the deep arroyos of the Foothills. “I just don’t listen to her.”

Birt took about 15 students interested in the U.S. Marines pilot training program from across Colorado, including CSU, to feel the head rush as the small plane took a sickening climb into the Fort Collins skies.

Birt, a Marine pilot, who is stationed in Fort Worth, Texas, twice a year travels to a handful of western states, including Colorado, giving potential Marine recruits a taste of what it is like to be a pilot.

“It’s a unique job,” Birt said. “I’m doing what I love, not just working.”

Birt described his entry into the job as pure luck. About six people at a time participate in the flight orientation.

“I knew someone who offered me the job and I just took it,” he said.

The ride was not for those with a weak stomach. The pilot climbed and rolled through the skies, leaving students’ heads spinning. He allowed students to take the wheel and conquer the sky with their own hands.

Freshman pre-constriction major Greg Mikulecky was one of the many students who walked away from Birt’s flight Wednesday more excited than ever.

“The flight was crazy,” Mikulecky said. “I didn’t know a plane like that could do things like that.”

From watching “Top Gun” to a career in the skies

“I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a negative comment,” Birt said.

The Texas A&M graduate said he has been interested in flying ever since he was a kid and movies such as “Top Gun” only made him crave the skies more.

Now Birt tries to interest his passion to potential recruits. Seeing the excitement from everyone who steps off hisplane is the most rewarding part of his job, he said.

Mikulecky, who grew up in Colorado Springs, said aviation was just a part of living there with U.S. Air Force right at your doorstep. He, especially after his flight with Birt, plans on going into the Marine’s to become a pilot.

“The flight is a good persuasive tool,” Mikulecky said. “It lets you know what you are going to be a part of.”

But not everyone who flies shares the same enthusiasm.

Ross Peterson, a senior at Poudre Valley High School, said he will stick to the ground after an upset stomach on Birt’s flight, but still enjoyed the experience.

“The flight was a lot of fun,” Peterson said. “Flying through the mountains I felt like I could touch the tree tops.”

Peterson said the orientation flight is definitely a great way to get a feeling of what it will be like to be a pilot.

Captain Michael McNicoll, a ground infantry officer with the Marines, said the ultimate goal of the program is to erase a common perception among young people being recruited by the Marines that the organization is defined by its brutal machismo that is propagated in the media.

“There is more to the Marines than just running around with a gun,” McNicoll said.

Staff writer Kate Frasure can be reached at

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