Here’s how an 18-year-old student pilot from Staten Island is making his dream come true

STATEN ISLAND, NY — Since the age of 4, Matthew Venezia, now 18, knew what he wanted to be when he grew up.

He wanted to be a pilot.

It’s a dream that Matthew, who lives in Huguenot, has worked his whole life after being picked up on a plane by a family friend.

“Since then, I fell in love with it, and it continues until now,” he said. “It’s always been a passion.”

Huguenot resident Matthew Venezia, 18, is a student pilot who has flown planes since he was 14. (Staten Island Advance/Priya Shahi)Priya Shahi

The recent graduate of St. Peter’s Boys High School has been learning to fly and taking lessons since age 14 through Certified Flyers, an aviation training center at Morristown Airport in New Jersey. In order to earn his student pilot license, he had to practice the basics, such as flight maneuvers, takeoff, landing, and learn how to use aircraft instruments.

“All the basic stuff,” he said. “Now I’ve kind of graduated, and now I do things like navigation, flight planning, using maps and stuff like that.”

His father, John Venezia, said he and his wife met a pilot on their honeymoon and became friends. The pilot then offered to take Matthew on a private flight after discovering his passion.

“So from that day that he put on that little helmet, he took off. It was his passion from the start…” said the former Venezia. “When he was 14 and experienced that first time flying [a plane], he just turned to my wife and me and he said, ‘Why do I have to finish high school? I know what I want to do. I just want to go to flight school.

John Venezia recalls a time when the family went on vacation to the Bahamas a few years ago. He told a flight attendant that his own son was a pilot and Matthew was invited to tour the cockpit.

And Matthew hasn’t lost the passion.

On the contrary, his passion was only amplified when he obtained his student pilot license, then his solo certification, allowing him to fly alone.

This first solo flight is the moment every future pilot dreams of, said Philip Ferrante, owner of Certified Flyers.

“The biggest day – the highlight – was his solo. You can just see the sparkle in his eyes, and he was so excited to fly a plane all by himself,” Ferrante recalls, referring to the first solo flight. of Matthew. “He couldn’t believe he was the one doing this. And I told him that private pilot is the official day you get your license in hand. But the day you’re alone on a plane, you are a pilot.

Matthew is currently working on getting his pilot’s license.

“Now I’m going to try to get my private pilot’s license, which I’m doing through cross-country and navigation training. I will be able to fly wherever I want and I will be able to fly with passengers,” he explained.

About 10% of pilots who train start around 14 or 15 – like Matthew, according to Ferrante. Most teenagers usually get the call to become a pilot around 17 or 18 years old.

Matt Venezia, 18, is an aspiring pilot and has been flying planes since he was 14.

“So from that day that he put on that little helmet, he took off. It was his passion from the start…” said John Venezia, speaking of Matthew’s love of flying.Priya Shahi

“It opens your horizons to do the unimaginable – to fly an airplane. It gives you the ability to make decisions at such a high level, at a higher pace, because your life is in your hands at that time, and it really takes you to a different level,” Ferrante explained. “It gives you the courage and the commitment to really excel in life, and that’s what we see with him. [Matthew]. He’s just spectacular.


During a recent visit to Morristown Airport, Advance/ watched Matthew prepare for a two-hour flight.

Before boarding the plane, he met his certified flight instructor, Brian Majek, who explained to Matthew – using a display panel – which flight controls he would use during his flight. The couple, who have worked together for four months, made their way through the tarmac field filled with small planes before stopping at a white plane with yellow and green lines.

Matthew then began his list of pre-takeoff checks, such as checking the engine, flight controls, fuel gauges, instruments and radios, landing gear and more.

“It will take about two hours to go around, navigate, learn to fly, know what to watch out for. It’s a different airspace because we’re right next to your major airports, JFK, LaGuardia, Newark. And they’re big jets – they’re flying directly above us, so we have to keep our eyes peeled a bit, because they’re quite fast compared to us,” Matthew said.

He continued: “We need to know how to watch traffic, know how to find an airport 50 miles away, know what to do if you get lost. We have to plan our fuel. So we need to know if we can actually get to the airport.

Majek explained that cross-country training involves flying to an airport 50 miles away.

“We are learning to navigate, to talk to our airports, to know what you are doing up there. So ultimately he can do it on his own – a solo cross-country endorsement license,” he said.

The training Matthew is currently undergoing means he will likely earn his private pilot license before attending Marywood University in Pennsylvania in the fall.

“I hope that by the time I graduate I will be a certified flight instructor. This is the last step. You need 1,250 hours [as a certified flight instructor] become an airline pilot,” Matthew said.


Staten Island is full of exciting, unique and unusual stories, especially among the borough’s school community.

So we want to profile these special students, as well as programs or new spaces within schools.

Is your child doing something special to make a difference in the community? Or do you know a student who has an unusual hobby or interest? You may know a teenager who started his own business. Or maybe there’s a kid in your neighborhood who cares for an uncommon pet.

We would also like to visit local schools to see some of the programming in action. Any school can reach out, including public, private, and Catholic schools at all levels, as well as colleges.

Do you know a student who is doing something unique or unusual? Does your school offer a unique program for students?

Contact Annalize Knudson, Education Journalist, at [email protected], with the subject line “Unique in Education”.


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