Radical Recreation: Head in the clouds

Maksim Mayer, criminal justice major, has been flying airplanes since 2013. It is unknown where this love came from, but this passion kept growing throughout his childhood and into adulthood.

“Many people growing up in Alaska have flying in their families. They just get used to it from an early age. This was not the case for Maksim; he does not have any pilots in the family and did not grow up around planes. His interest came purely from somewhere else inside him,” Leslie Hannam, Mayer’s mother, said.

At a young age, Mayer’s obsession with planes was obvious.

“When other young children were playing shooting and fighting video games, he was most interested in his flight simulator,” Hannam said. “He got his first flight simulator program at age 5. Even at this age, he could look in the sky and identify the types of planes flying overhead as well as the airlines. He dressed up as an Alaska Airlines pilot for Halloween.”

Maksim Mayer
Maksim Mayer shaking Designated Pilot Examiner Alan Carpenter’s hand after receiving his pilot’s license in the summer of 2017. Photo credit: Maksim Mayer

Mayer completed his flying license over the summer and is licensed private pilot, which gives him the right to fly passengers and himself. He is currently working towards his next certificate that will allow him to fly through clouds and close to zero visibility. As of now, he flies a Cessna 172p, a small four-seat training aircraft.

Most of Mayer’s training took place over Big Lake known as the “practice area” to aviators. However, Mayer has flown over many parts of Alaska.

“I have flown over most of South Central Alaska, Anchorage to Homer, Soldotna, Talkeetna and Kenai,” Mayer said. “Flying is, in my opinion, the best way to see Alaska. I have flown over glaciers, lakes, ocean and mountains. There is no better way to travel the Last Frontier.”

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Mayer describes flying as the most liberating experience of his life.

“My first solo was the most terrified and happy I have ever been in my life, I was all alone in the plane and no one could save me but myself,” Mayer said.

There are many dangers that come with flying, but after experiencing a flight with Mayer, Hannam is reassured by her son’s capabilities.

“I have gone flying with Maksim and the experience just increased my confidence in him as a pilot,” Hannam said. “We had an issue with the plane’s radio and communication system while headed north out of Merrill Field, and he handled it very calmly by going through the emergency procedures and negotiating the problem.”

Matt Muffoletto, business major and close friend of Mayer, is looking forward to the opportunity to fly with his friend.

“I have taken him flying several times and we’ve had a blast. Having another copilot in the seat makes things much easier while up in the air and more enjoyable. We’re always pushing each other to learn as much as we can,” Muffoletto said.

The ability to fulfill a lifelong dream of having a career in the aviation field seems almost unreal to Mayer.

“My dream career is sitting in the left seat of an Alaska Airlines 737, flying legs all over the United States. It has been my dream for as long as I can remember,” Mayer said. “I feel so grateful that I have been able to make my life dream come within grasp. It feels so good to know that my career will feel like fun and not a job,”

Although Mayer plans to have work in the airline industry, he is working on his criminal justice career.

“My decision to change majors this year has had many factors, one being that if flying does not work for a career in the long run, I thought it was prudent to have a major in a different field,” Mayer said. “As far as my criminal justice degree is concerned, I have taken a keen interest in APD and have been looking into becoming a police officer if flying does not work out, or if possible, at the same time.”

In the meantime, while going to school, Mayer is continuing to get his flying certificates and building his flight hours required for a commercial job.

“Do not let anyone tell you can’t do something, go out in the world and be confident in yourself and you will fly high,” Mayer said.