Winged dreamer |
David Pressgrove

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Winged dreamer

Former resident comes back to Craig to realize flying dream

Tom Jacobs is a dreamer.

Up until seven years ago it was his dream to live in an Alaskan village. Then he and his wife moved from Cripple Creek to Tuluksak, a village 400 miles west of Anchorage.

Up until this summer Jacobs had dreamed of being a pilot. In May, he received a package in the mail and in it was the information about Colorado Northwestern Community Col-

lege’s Continuing Education Flight Training program. His wife and mother had enrolled him in the program.

Jacobs finished the written test for the class when he was in Alaska. He came to Craig and started his flying classes on July 5.

“The college has bent over backwards to make this a great experience for me,” he said. “It has been intensive but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Helping his family

After graduating from Hayden High School, Jacobs immediately went to work in the mining industry. He worked for Trapper Mine and other mines around the country for 25 years.

Shortly after high school, he married Terry Ann “T.A.” They had two sons, both of whom received financial assistance from their father for college.

Tom also paid for T.A. to go to school at age 30 and earn her master’s degree.

“My wife said the flying lessons were a gift for working hard to help the family,” Jacobs said. “I had worked hard to help them and they were rewarding me.”

Flying over Alaska

When Tom first started to learn to fly, sitting in a puddle jumper was nothing new. In Alaska, he flies 20 times a year to either get to a larger city or to travel for work.

In Tuluksak he and his wife work at a K-12 school. The village has 500 people, and almost all of the villagers are native, with the exception of the school teachers. Jacobs is the mechanic/maintenance worker for the Yupilt School District. He travels to the different schools to help maintain the generators and other maintenance issues.

“The villagers have a tough life,” he said. “It makes my wife and I feel fortunate for what we have.”

Tom said there were times when the pilot would “kinda let me fly.”

This summer he’s been doing the real thing.

CNCC’s program

Tom’s family contacted David Cole, the Director of Aviation Technology-Flight, at the Rangely campus of Colorado Northwestern to inquire about classes.

Cole and the college created the Continuing Education Flight Training program in the winter.

“We recognized that there was a demand for learning to fly without taking the college classes that our regular students do,” Cole said. “Tom was an ideal person that we had in mind when we came up with the program.”

Tom used his summer vacation time to come to Craig and he was able to stay with his parents, Bill and Billie Jacobs, while he took the classes.

A plane and instructor were available to him nearly every weekday at the Craig/Moffat County Airport.

“I was really surprised that the college would put a plane in Craig just for me,” Jacobs said. “Dave really cared and made the extra effort to accommodate me.”

Cole said the CEFT program had eight students currently flying and that eight more were giving serious consideration.

“I had checked out programs like this one in Alaska and it was three times the cost,” Jacobs said. “It has been great that I could take my vacation and learn to fly at the same time.”

Learning to fly

Mike Breed was in Dave Cole’s office when Tom’s family made the first call. Breed had applied to be an instructor for the CEFT program, but he hadn’t been hired at the time.

“I thought it was a cool story,” he said. “When I was accepted to be an instructor I felt like I already knew Tom.”

Breed graduated from CNCC with an associate’s degree in May, as well as his license to fly.

He and Tom have spent hours in the air together.

“When (Tom) first started he had trouble keeping the plane straight,” Breed said. “Three weeks later, he’s soloing.”

Jacobs said there was so much information to absorb in one sitting his brain would sometimes overload.

“Mike could tell when my brain was too full and we would take it into land,” he said. “I could only take two hours of information in at a time. They made sure I learned as quickly and safely as possible.”

Jacobs flew almost every day with Breed and once he mastered landing, he said he felt like a pilot.

One of his inspirations to be a pilot was his grandfather, who started flying at 49 years old. Coincidentally, Jacobs learned to fly in his 49th year.

His new skill will have a practical use back home.

“This will come in handy if I can fly myself in Alaska,” he said. “I have everybody in the world looking for a plane for me.”

David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or