***OUR APPLICATION PROCESS IS NOW CLOSED***
To apply for the Buko Aviation Scholarship, contact:
Name: Patrick Miller
The Ray and Joan Bukovszky Memorial Aviation Scholarship (The Buko) is backed by a donor who wanted to honor the impact the Bukovszky family had on his life.
The purpose of the award is to provide funds to allow flight training for someone in their late teens/early 20's to learn to fly. First a bit of a back story.
Ray Bukovszky wanted to fly from his early childhood. He grew up in a small town outside Cleveland called Fairport Harbor. His father literally worked in the salt mines in the salt domes underneath Lake Erie. That was not the life he wanted to live. He dreamed of being an airline pilot and of seeing the world from above.
Then, as now, flying was an expensive undertaking. And getting the required skills, certifications, and time was very difficult. But Ray had a plan. When he graduated from high school, he went to college to study mechanical engineering and he joined the Air Force ROTC. This was the late 1950’s when the Cold War was still pretty hot. Korea was still simmering and a place called Vietnam was just starting to boil. Despite this, Ray was willing to put his life on the line to learn how to fly. His college had an aviation program that took care of that as Uncle Sam took care of the bills.
He took his checkride on a cloudy, rainy day (and may or may not have terrified the examiner when they clipped a few clouds coming back to the airport at the end of the test). But from that day forward, Ray was a true, certified actual pilot.
On graduation, Ray married his childhood sweetheart, Joan, who had lived a few houses away in Fairport Harbor (but attended the same college). And he joined the Air Force as a 2nd Lieutenant. He asked for and received a non-combatant flying position with multi-engine cargo planes. After training in Massachusetts and Florida, he was posted overseas to Vietnam. Joan and the two kids moved back to Ohio for the duration.
Vietnam was harrowing at times. He told me of landing on a jungle strip that had unknowingly changed hands overnight. But the dangers were sometimes from the friendly side as well. Once, when delivering Jeeps, the load order called for removing the tires to keep the weight within limits. During a preflight check, Ray found that the loadmasters had dutifully removed the tires and then stowed them inside the Jeeps!
His service complete, Ray got out of the Air Force and started flying DC-10s as a First Officer for Continental Airlines. He was based out of LAX and flew routes back to Newark and (more enjoyably) to Hawaii.
Ray was also an aircraft builder! He built a Bede BD-4, a popular kit plane in 1970’s. He test flew it one day out of Santa Paula Airport (KSZP). He was doing a high speed taxi test and the plane hopped in the air, and so it became an impromptu first flight!
As the plane was finished, his family suddenly grew from four to six people and the 4-seater just wasn’t big enough, so Ray sold the plane (until recently, the plane was still flying in Upstate New York). He started a new project, a Bede BD-5. The BD-5 was designed to fly with a snowmobile engine that never quite worked. A small jet engine was substituted to get the required power. Alas, Jim Bede wasn’t as good a businessman as he was an engineer and the company went bankrupt several times. That plane was nearing completion when Ray found that he had developed a heart condition that abruptly ended his flying career. He retired from Continental and did not fly as Pilot-In-Command ever again.
He remained, however, always a pilot. We often talked about his flying and my own desire to fly. I had a few lessons in my twenties, but as a broke Air Force Sergeant, I didn’t have the money to finish and become a pilot. He encouraged me to hang in there, and I received my certificate in my 50s. Never too old to dream, one of my first acts was to take Ray out flying over the desert near Phoenix where he and Joan had retired. I gave him the yoke and I could see the spark come back to his eyes as we circled over desert features and chased a car around a test track. Later, as we came back to land, he called altitudes like the First Officer he had been in the past.
Sadly, Ray had a stroke and died in 2019. His beloved Joanie died a week later. At his funeral service, I fulfilled his final request to me to read the poem, “High Flight” during the eulogy. This was a poem that had inspired me to dream of being a pilot as it was often used as a sign off message for TV stations of the era. I managed that without choking up entirely, but the tears did flow.
To learn to fly, you need to have three things:
• A burning desire
Ray had the burning desire to fly and used ROTC and six years of military service to cover the other two. For my first attempt to learn, I had time and the burning desire; but I did not have the money to complete my training until 30 years later when the stars aligned to make it possible for me.
The purpose of this award is to find people with time and a burning desire (and not quite enough money) and let them fulfill their dream of becoming a pilot while they are still young.
It doesn’t matter where the desire comes from but it should be intense. The candidate should know why they want to fly and what they plan to do with that skill. This award doesn’t require candidates to want to be airline pilots -- the sponsor is happily and only a general aviation pilot. The end game can be the airlines, the military, missionary work, or just plain fun! A good candidate can describe exactly what they will want to achieve with their new private pilot’s certificate. A mile of road can take you a mile, but a mile of runway can take you anywhere!
The candidate should also want to be deeply involved in all aspects of aviation. Ray and the sponsor are both airplane builders and active in the EAA. While the candidate might not be building their own plane, there are many opportunities available within EAA Chapter 1 to get involved. Pilots are a tight knit, friendly bunch. Use the opportunities available to start your own network of “friends in high places.” Go to the Pancake Breakfast, help out with Young Eagles, work on the chapter’s kit projects!
The candidate must be committed to the work required to become a pilot. They must demonstrate the time and infrastructure around them to commit to taking flying lessons. One doesn’t learn to fly by taking a lesson or two every once in a while. The candidate must show that they can get to the airport for each lesson. The candidate should demonstrate that they will come prepared, on time, and ready to learn.
One need not be a genius to fly, but there is an academic component to flying that extends well beyond the physical prowess required to manipulate the controls. A candidate should ideally have passed the private pilot ground test before applying. During their interview, they should be able to discuss the parts of the exam that were hard for them and what they learned from their mistakes. This is part of the final checkride as a good candidate will always know where their weaknesses lie.
The application process is handled through EAA Chapter 1. A candidate should work with a Chapter Mentor to prepare an essay describing why they wish to be a pilot. Some ideas to think about when you started writing might include:
• Read the poem “High Flight” Is there something in there that resonates with you?
• Consider the obstacles that Ray had to overcome. What might you have done in a similar situation?
• What parts of Ray’s life journey to become a pilot (or after he became one) struck you as the most poignant?
• What might you have asked Ray if you had met him?
The essay should primarily speak to your inspiration and to your commitment. We are funding your dream, it is important that you can show us that you take that seriously and are ready to embark on this journey with us. The essay should talk about the people in your life that are supporting this dream. Flying is a community. Who have you reached out to and who supports you? Neither Ray nor the sponsor knew anyone in their family that wanted to fly. Each had to reach out to people to help them make their dream come true. Who are your people? How will they help you? And finally, the essay should speak to how you plan to help “pay this gift forward.” How will you add to the amazing aviation community once you can call yourself a pilot!
My mother never wished me good luck when I started an endeavor. She would wish me “good skill!” instead. So I wish you good skill in your application and good skill in life.
Aviation is proof that given the will, we have the capacity to achieve the impossible.
-- Eddie Rickenbacker