Topeka Pilots forward Matthew Francois is no stranger to skies near Denver, growing up around his dad, a commercial airline pilot.
But this summer, after years of familiarity with flying and aircrafts, Francois was ready to elevate his level of knowledge of the skies.
These last three months, he stated he’s spent countless hours in the sky with a certified instructor to make his vision of being a private pilot a reality.
And now, he is officially licensed to fly private planes nationwide. He’s been training recently using a single-engine Cessna plane from the flight school he attended.
“Since I’ve not really had anything going on this summer, I’ve been able to bear down and get it done to get my license,” Francois said. “I’ve always been interested in it (flying). This summer, I thought it’d be a good time to really get into it and start the process.”
Francois, who was born and raised near the Denver area, said he’s been flying sporadically for about five years with his dad, before it started developing into something more.
“I’ve been flying a little bit here and there, just locally,” Francois said. “I’m comfortable with the environment, but it was a little scary at first. My dad helped out with getting me going and boosting me along in the process. He gave me a good foundation to build on.”
With his first planned destination being to nearby Nebraska to visit a friend, he indicated he also hopes to also get some of his fellow Pilots into the skies this season.
“Last year, I told the guys I was interested in all of it, so it will be cool to see that reaction now that I have the license,” Francois said. “I definitely plan to take a few of the guys up this season to show them what it’s all about.”
He stated to start out, he will fly out of Centennial Airport in the Denver-Aurora metropolitan area, which is one of the busiest public-use airports nationwide. An average of 874 operations fly in and out of Centennial Airport on a daily basis.
And the coincidence of playing for the Topeka Pilots as a now licensed pilot only made the whole experience that much more fulfilling.
“It’s just crazy how it came together to work out like that, so that I’m on the Pilots as a pilot,” Francois said.
With just a month left until the season begins on Sept. 13, Francois said he plans to utilize his remaining time in the sky valuably, but he is also looking forward to hockey season starting. Francois had 14 points last season, with six goals and eight assists in 57 games.
“It’s been a great summer, but I know the team is ready to build on last year,” Francois said. “We really want to take it to the next level this year.”