Sitting in the passenger seat of a 1973 Piper Cherokee, Brandon Moore says he was 16 years old when he realized he wanted to be a pilot.
Flying connects Brandon and his dad, Janesville Police Chief Dave Moore, who was the pilot Wednesday as we glided in the clear, blue sky above Lake Koshkonong.
Dave Moore had taken his family to the restaurant at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport for years to watch planes. In 2008, he and Brandon enrolled in flight training classes.
The two now are flying aficionados. Dave owns the four-seater, single-engine Cherokee, and Brandon, 27, flies for PSA Airlines, a regional commercial airline owned by American Airlines.
Brandon, a 2010 Craig High School graduate, returned to the airport this week to recruit pilots at the national Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference, or SAFECON. Competitive flight events are scheduled at the airport through Friday.
The competition is sponsored by the National Intercollegiate Flying Association and is hosted by UW-Madison. It’s the first year Wisconsin has hosted the event.
Twenty-nine teams are competing, including UW-Madison and Brandon’s alma mater, Louisiana Tech University. About 100 small-engine planes from across the country are parked on the airport’s tarmac.
Wednesday, pilots participated in the power-off landing event. One by one, they idled their engines and glided onto the runway, landing in a 200-foot box.
The landings were graded on a point system that evaluated where the planes touched down, their landing technique and the bounce of the aircraft. Pilots were disqualified if they landed before the starting line, Brandon said.
“You’d rather land a little bit long than coming up too short,” he said.
In a navigation event Tuesday, pilots planned a 100-nautical-mile flight and estimated their fuel burn and navigation time for the trip. Brandon said they were judged on how accurate their estimates were.
Pilots took aircraft recognition and computer accuracy tests Monday in Madison. In a message-drop event slated for Friday, each plane’s passenger will release a lightweight container from the plane and try to hit a mark on the ground.
Brandon said demand for commercial airline pilots has skyrocketed over the past five years.
Along with PSA Airlines, recruiters from Delta and UPS are scouting pilots at the competition. Brandon said all regional airlines are hiring.
“You can land a job at SAFECON,” he said. “... It should be their interview to lose. That’s kind of how we look at it.”
In 2010, some flight schools shut down, Brandon said. Salaries for pilots were low, and their mandatory retirement age had been raised from 60 to 65. The industry stagnated.
Since then, wages have increased dramatically, and some colleges now are turning away students from their programs.
Brandon was 16 when he flew an airplane by himself for the first time.
“Your heart’s pumping so fast the first time you get to go solo,” he said. “You look over to the right seat, and your flight instructor’s not there.”
Brandon enrolled in Louisiana Tech’s aviation program 10 days before he graduated from Craig. He flew commercially from Ruston, Louisiana, to walk the stage in Janesville, he said.
In college, Brandon competed in regional SAFECON events in Mississippi and Texas. Louisiana Tech never advanced to the national competition while he was a student.
A host of certificates are required to become an airline pilot, including an private pilot certificate, an instrument rating—which allows pilots to fly through clouds—a commercial pilot certificate, a multi-engine rating and an airline transport pilot certificate.
As an aviation major, Brandon took weather and aerodynamics classes alongside core college classes. He worked as a flight instructor at Tubreaux Aviation in Shreveport, Louisiana, and flew a plane for a skydiving business.
He was hired by PSA in March 2015 and is based in Knoxville, Tennessee. The airline is wholly owned by American Airlines and operates American Eagle planes, Brandon said.
Now a captain at PSA, he anticipates becoming an American Airlines pilot in the next three years.
Brandon praised Janesville for hosting the college event Wednesday. He said he is recruiting pilots in the former Blackhawk Technical College maintenance terminal, the same building where he took flight lessons with his dad in 2008.
“I never thought, ever, I would be recruiting for my airline in my hometown,” he said.
Christine Rebout, executive director of the Janesville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the flight competition is expected to generate $650,000 in economic impact for local businesses.
Sometime in the doldrums of last winter, a box of seeds arrived at Edison Middle School.
The box addressed to Devan Green, a student in Andy LaChance’s science class, contained seeds for Russian mammoth sunflowers, red amaranth, exotic tomato variety burgundy okra, red lettuce, red string beans, Indian corn, carrots, radishes, zinnias, peas and a variety of other vegetables and flowers.
It also contained the promise of sunshine, excitement and what teachers call “student engagement.”
On Wednesday, when the sun was actually shining, LaChance and fellow life sciences teacher Marti Reese led mobs of squirrelly eighth-graders outside to plant their seedlings.
“I bet that less than 10 percent of these kids have a garden at home,” LaChance said.
As such, the questions ranged from “What do you mean, make a mound?” to “The dirt came off my plants. What should I do?”
One boy insisted the kale seedlings were weeds. Another child promptly started to use one of the plant markers as a sword, and several newly planted seedlings narrowly missed being trod on by high-top sneakers.
LaChance has had gardens before, but this one really started with a request from a student. One day earlier this year, Green, 14, had finished up his work and asked his teacher what he should do next.
“I told him, ‘Get me some seeds,’ and he said, ‘How do I do that?’ and I said, ‘I don’t know, just get me some seeds,’” LaChance said.
Green’s family has a small garden at his home in Janesville, and his family also has land near Brodhead where they raise beef and vegetables such as sweet corn for canning. Green hunted around on the internet and found Peaceful Valley, an organic seed company in Grass Valley California.
After the seeds arrived, students figured out when they needed to start their seeds indoors. La Chance optimistically predicted May 5 as the last frost date.
Students learned about soil pH level—Edison’s is between 6 and 8—composting; plant nutrients and nutrient transfer; the impact of water, wind, sun and pests; cell structure; temperature swings, germination and all the other stuff you usually learn in life sciences by sitting in a chair and taking notes.
LaChance will keep an eye on the garden this summer, and hopes to teach next fall’s students the principles of canning. The food will be donated to local food pantries or families in need.
Teaching with hands-on activities always produces better “student engagement” results, specialists say.
“It works better,” Reese said. “Students see the purpose of it; they have better memory retention when they’re doing hands-on activities.”
LaChance said the students were excited when their seeds finally sprouted.
Austin Tobias, who is in Reese’s class, was one of those kids thrilled when his tiny pot of soil showed signs of life.
He has a garden at home, sort of.
“It’s my mom’s,” Tobias said. “She plants tomatoes and potatoes.”
Does he help out?
“She does it,” Tobias said. “I don’t really pay any attention.”
Maybe he will this summer.
Jenna Mae Brovold
Brent A. Burdick
Larry D. Miller
The Rev. David G. Pease
Deborah “Deb” Woodruff
John C. Zanzinger
Alabama’s new law restricting abortion in nearly every circumstance has moved one of the most polarizing issues in American politics to the center of the 2020 presidential campaign.
The state’s legislation—the toughest of several anti-abortion measures that have passed recently, with the only exception being a serious risk to the woman’s health—prompted an outcry from Democratic presidential candidates, who warned that conservatives were laying the groundwork to undermine the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. The White House, meanwhile, didn’t comment on the Alabama bill, signed into law Wednesday by Republican Gov. Kay Ivey, as President Donald Trump tries to balance his conservative base against the potential of antagonizing women who are already skeptical of his presidency.
The furor over abortion quickly took over on the Democratic campaign trail. Rallying supporters in New Hampshire, Sen. Kamala Harris said she would back a legal challenge to Alabama and Georgia’s restrictive abortion laws. She also vowed to make a commitment to upholding the Roe decision a “significant factor” in any Supreme Court nominees she might choose as president, though she declined to go as far as presidential rival Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has promised to only nominate judges ready to preserve the 1973 ruling that established a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.
“I respect every woman’s right to make a decision about what’s in the best interest of herself and her family,” Harris said.
Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia have approved abortion bans once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur in about the sixth week of pregnancy. None of these laws are yet in force, either because of later effective dates or legal challenges that have blocked them. But supporters have openly predicted that the laws could spark court fights that will eventually lead the Supreme Court to revisit its Roe decision.
Gillibrand plans to fly to Atlanta on Thursday to meet with women protesting Georgia’s state law.
Sen. Cory Booker told The Associated Press that backers of the Alabama measure are “saying that they designed this bill with certain provisions—like not having any exceptions for rape or incest—specifically designed so that they can lead a fight to the Supreme Court” to “undermine other freedoms and liberties of women to control their own bodies.”
Booker said it’s not enough to hope that Roe will be upheld, adding: “We cannot wait to see if this gets worse.”
Several Democratic presidential candidates sought to use their high-profile positions to boost organizing against the state-level abortion laws. Harris emailed her campaign supporters offering to “split a donation” to four advocacy groups working to defend abortion rights. Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, directed his supporters by email to the abortion-rights group NARAL.
Among the other Democratic candidates who took to Twitter to blast Alabama’s law and other state-level restrictions were Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, as well as former Vice President Joe Biden and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke.
Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL, lauded the Democrats for their support. But she urged them to go further than pro-abortion-rights rhetoric, calling instead for “articulated plans about how we’re going to address and get out of this crisis.”
The Democratic pushback comes as Trump makes his selection of conservative judges a centerpiece of his political stump speech, part of a long-running courtship of social conservatives whose support he needs to win re-election next year. Republicans have long believed that the politics of abortion have shifted somewhat in their favor in recent years. But the near-absolutist nature of the most recent bills has sparked some concern among the president’s team that it could energize Trump critics and female voters, with whom the president has long struggled.
Polling suggests that the issue of abortion has the potential to stoke political engagement among both parties. The General Social Survey released last year found 64% of Democrats, but just 35% of Republicans, saying a woman should be able to have an abortion for any reason.
Other surveys have found majority support for legalized abortion in “all or most cases.” A Pew Research Center survey in September 2018 found 58% of Americans saying abortion should be legal in at least most cases, compared with 37% who said it should be illegal in all or most cases.
Trump won the White House in 2016 in part because of strong support from socially conservative Republicans who wanted to ensure that a conservative justice got named to the Supreme Court seat that was held open by the GOP’s refusal to confirm President Barack Obama’s pick for the lifetime post. Since his first campaign began, Trump has supported a ban on abortions at the point that a fetus is believed to feel pain and publicly released a list of conservative judges from which he would select a nominee for the nation’s highest court.
The president’s selection of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court has emboldened conservative allies of the White House who believe the time is ripe for a court case to challenge Roe v. Wade. Kavanaugh assured senators before his confirmation last year that he viewed Roe as precedent, but Democratic senators pointed to a 2003 memo he wrote that suggested it wasn’t necessary to call the landmark abortion-rights ruling “settled law” because the “Court can always overrule its precedent.”
The Trump campaign deferred to the White House on whether Trump supported the Alabama measure or other restrictive bills passed by other states. White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere touted Trump’s record on abortion, noting that he “is protecting our most innocent and vulnerable, defending the dignity of life and called on Congress to prohibit late-term abortions.”