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Unseen service
May 2, 2024
SOCCER STAR Dayne Bartscht ‘04, pictured on the right, was a star player and captain of the soccer team at Greenhills. “He was the guy you wanted on your team and the player that other teams loved to hate,” Associate Director of Admissions and former athletic director Eric Gajar said. “He was chippy, and he didn’t take anything from other people.”
Brewing it up
May 1, 2024

Poking holes in the sky

Poking holes in the sky

As the sun rose over the tarmac a young Deano Smith heard a whoosh, looked up and saw exactly where he wanted to be.

“We [lived] literally right on the approach path,” said Smith. “You just look up and there’s a plane coming in.”

Smith grew up practically on the runway, but it was on the planes that his passion really took off.

“My grandmother lived in Georgia, and we would sometimes go visit,” said Smith. “I just loved flying. I flew on DC-3s. These are old airplanes. We [would] fly into a little town of El Bosque, Georgia. [To get there,] we’d fly from Salt Lake City (where he lived) to Chicago O’Hare and from Chicago O’Hare to Atlanta Hartsfield, [which are] two of the biggest, busiest airports in the world.”

Smith was so enthralled with planes and aviation that he would take the bus to the airport every day, just to watch the planes take off.

“Back in the day, you could actually go outside [at the airport],” said Smith. “There were observation decks where everybody could go down and observe the airplanes.”

Smith carried his passion with him, so when he saw a flier for a flying club in college, he jumped at the chance. He also said he wanted to be better prepared.

“I decided to take a ground school class and it was the easiest class I ever took because by the time I was 12, I had read every book in the library about flying.”

After his class, Smith took to the air. He took two flights and decided that this was what he wanted to do. He then took a flying class in grad school.

 “[The flying class] was a lot of fun, because I got to go into more depth,” said Smith. “It’s like taking advanced physics after you take physics. You get the basics first, then you get to explore the cool stuff. And I started flying like crazy.”

In his third quarter, Smith took a light academic load to spend more time in the air.

“I was in an airplane every day,” said Smith.

Those first flights with the instructor were cramped.

“You’re sitting in an airplane with the instructor and it’s a small airplane, a trainer airplane,” said Smith. “I’m sitting here and the instructor’s sitting right next to me, and you can feel your instructor [next to you]. Your arm is touching them.”

His first solo flight was a little different.

“The instructor gets out of the airplane, and just [told me] ‘okay, you’re ready,’” said Smith. “It’s one of the scariest, most intense, amazing moments in any pilot’s life. I still remember it like it was yesterday. I got in the airplane, Cessna 50511 was the number of the airplane, blue and white.”

It was like any other flight, yet completely different.

“I was taxiing the airplane up to the runway and I put my arm over in the seat where the instructor was like, whoa.” said Smith. “It’s not like I didn’t know he wasn’t there. It’s just like, whoa, it’s just me, it’s all me.”

Smith did the remainder of his training to fly at a busy airport, and got his pilot’s license in less than two months.

Today Smith gets to pass his passion on through his work as a flight instructor and the Greenhills Flying Club.

“We go flying and he teaches us the ground school stuff to get our license,” said Jacob Perkins ‘25, flying club member. “It’s really interesting because I spend a lot of time driving around Ann Arbor, but seeing it from the air is just completely different.”

It’s hard to get that feeling out of your head.

“It’s in your mind all the time,” said Smith.

It’s hard to feed a flying addiction, but Smith found a way.

“My family was not especially well off growing up,” said Smith. “So I worked. I worked in a bowling alley, and I started seeing the money that I made, not even in terms of money but in terms of flying ability. It was like that’s another flight hour, that’s two flight hours, that’s three.”

From that point onward Smith’s life has been shaped by flying.

“You see the world in a totally different way. I love being able to see all of humanity spread out below you.”

For a while, Smith shaped his life around flying too. After finishing his graduate studies in Ann Arbor, he and his wife, also a pilot, moved to Maryland where they lived on an airstrip. 

 “I could sit in my second floor science classroom, look out the window and see my house and my airplane. It was glorious.“

Now Smith rents planes from the University of Michigan Flyers.

“I like flying with a club because it’s also social. [For example] on Saturday I’m taking some friends of mine up to Clare, Michigan to get donuts, cause you gotta have an excuse to go fly.”

But Smith said sometimes it’s just fun to go up and “poke holes in the sky.”

“You can say, I think I’m going to go over to Richmond and check out the gliders. Or I’m going to go over to Shamrock, which is an airport that I used to own, just south of Michigan International Speedway.”

Smith owned the airport for ten years and he and his wife planned to retire there. 

“It was a lot of work. It was just a little grass strip, but it was a public use airport and so we had to maintain certain standards for that. We had a couple of hangers. It was nice because we got to know the local community.”

They had to sell the airport after Smith’s wife was hired by Virginia Tech, but not before fixing it up. 

“We were painting hangers, refurbishing stuff, redoing the doors. We used to do junior hours, where you’d pay juniors to do work and the money would go to the class fund for service, every one of those ten years because there’s always a lot of work. At that point I spent more time on a tractor than I did in the airplane. I was like, ‘hold on a second, what’s going on with this?’”

Even though it wasn’t exactly what he had thought it would be, Smith enjoyed the experience.

“It was great. When you go out, land, park the airplane, lean back and say, yeah, this is my airport,” said Smith. “I remember sitting on a bench outside the main hangar there on a race day we had a lot of traffic coming in for the races. I’d be up at 6 a.m. because we’d have the banner airplanes starting to fly. The airport was beautiful and I would sit there and watch the sun rise over the runway that I had just mowed a few days before. Beautiful day. Beautiful airport. Bring on the airplanes.”

 

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About the Contributor
Anjan Singer '24, Lifestyles Editor
Oversees lifestyles staff, responsible for section story ideas, assigns stories, edits, designs and lays out lifestyles section.

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