Michael Wallace Memorial Scholarship Fund
“It’s been the longest relationship I’ve had with anyone or anything,” the man says as he reminisces on his love affair with glider flying. More than 43 years ago, a much younger Art Wallace made the decision to sell his motorcycle and follow his dream of becoming a pilot. Armed with the proceeds from the bike sale, he ran down to Cypress Soaring Club at Hemet-Ryan Field in Southern California and became a member of a group that he considers family today.
When the stars align, Wallace and the instructor that gave him his wings still get the chance to share the cockpit of a glider and soar above the terrain near Hemet. If the visibility is right, they can see the Pacific Ocean, downtown Los Angeles, and a snow-capped Mt. Baldy; not a bad way to spend part of a weekend.
As is the case in many families, the aviation bug didn’t stop with Art. His son Michael followed in dad’s footsteps, earning his private pilot license in gliders at the age of 16 – a feat that made both father and son tremendously proud. Art testifies to the wonders of soaring, “Flying planes is outstanding transportation…Soaring is not good transportation, but it’s a remarkable sport that teaches you to use your intuition and training; to continue to fly for hours on end, exchanging altitude for time and distance.”
After earning his wings in gliders, the younger Wallace set his sights on adding power privileges to his certificate with the ultimate goal of becoming an airline pilot. Sadly, twenty years ago this month, Michael was involved in a mishap over Long Beach Harbor in which he and three others lost their lives. Through their profound loss, Art and the rest of the Wallace Family knew it was necessary to honor Michael by giving others the opportunity to achieve their dream of flight. The Michael Wallace Memorial Scholarship Fund, a registered 501(c)(3) public charity, was created with that mission in mind.
To date, an estimated 30-35 awards have been granted with the “typical” recipient being of high school age. What started out as single $600 grant each year has since grown to three or four young people each receiving a $1000 grant. To some, that might not seem like a significant figure, especially when considering the cost of flying lessons.
Art sees it somewhat more sagely, “If we can give a young student a little bit of money to help with costs, along with parents and the flight school – together – we can get that person a lot further along than he would’ve been otherwise.” He continues, “Sometimes it’s not the big things in life, but the small ones that really have an impact on someone.”
The scholarship goes to young people that embody hard work, dedication, and a love of aviation. Of the dozens of deserving recipients over the years, some really stand out. There have been a few scholarship winners that have gone on to the Air Force Academy. Another, a student at Penn State University at the time of his application, was riding his bicycle 60 miles one-way to the airfield – he was already a private pilot who was working on his commercial certificate with aspirations of becoming a CFI-G. Two months after receiving the award, he called Art to share the news that he had passed his practical and was giving his first lesson the following day.
Another example is Abdalla Elrahhal of Newport News, Virginia. “He’s doing really well and is an extremely smart guy,” says Art of young Abdalla, who splits his time between school, sports, Civil Air Patrol, and learning to fly airplanes and gliders concurrently.
“I am very thankful to Michael’s family for awarding me one of the [scholarships]” in 2019, notes Elrahhal, who soloed a glider in 2020 under the tutelage of Norman ‘Buz’ Wilson, an ex-Air Force test pilot and retired airline captain. “Without the Scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to progress towards solo,” Abdalla confesses. The young aviator started 2021 by passing his private pilot written test for powered planes.
As fortunate as Elrahhal is to be able to fly, his humility and gratitude shine through. He heard about scholarships through the Tidewater Soaring Foundation. “I had no idea soaring scholarships existed,” he says. Without the collective support of Tidewater, Buz, and the Michael Wallace Scholarship, “I wouldn’t [be flying].”
With a hint of poetry, Art sums it up best, “If [the award] can help a young person continue with his endeavor to learn to fly – perhaps through solo or private pilot license – regardless of whether he continues flying as a career, I truly believe the fact that the kid did this – took a test and learned to operate safely – it will change his life forever. It will make him a better human.”
We here at Stick and Glider couldn’t agree more. Flying does make for more responsible humans and achieving your dream of flight can literally take you anywhere.
To learn more about Michael and the Memorial Scholarship, please visit the website. If you know a young person who desires to become a glider pilot, please share the article and the application below (due March 15). If you are fortunate enough to be in a position to donate to the Scholarship, please follow the link to the website where you will find contact and tax benefit information.