Nathan Beltramo, a 2016 OHS graduate, returned to his alma mater piloting a helicopter. He showed off an aircraft from the Waterford-based Magnum Helicopters and talked to Auto Tech students about how what they’re learning now can give them a leg up in the aviation industry. Learning about helicopters are (from left) OHS auto tech students Cameron Marshall, Evan Gasparott, Kyle Kalbfleisch, Austin Hunter and Dave Lawrie. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio.
Nathan Beltramo knows how to make an entrance.
Last week, the 2016 Oxford High School graduate returned to his alma mater in a helicopter that he piloted.
He landed the aircraft on a practice field, shook a few hands, then spoke to students in teacher Dan Balsley’s auto technology program.
“This is one of the best auto shops in the country,” proclaimed Beltramo, a resident of Brandon Twp.
He came to tell students, and show them, that the sky’s the limit – literally – when it comes to applying what they’re learning in Balsley’s class to the world of aviation.
“This isn’t just going out and fixing cars. This is a lot more than that,” Beltramo said.
“You can be an aircraft mechanic. You can help design aircraft, make things safer,” he told students. “You don’t even have to be near an aircraft to make a difference in this field with the knowledge you already have.”
Beltramo noted when his brother, Jordan, moved to Mississippi, his first job was placing avionics (electronic systems) into planes. “It’s just like changing a car radio,” he said.
The helicopter Beltramo flew is owned by Magnum Helicopters, a Waterford-based company whose services include flight training, aerial photography, sight-seeing tours, rides, maintenance and sales.
“I’ve been flying helicopters for just about two years and I’ve been licensed for a year,” he said.
He obtained his private pilot license last May and is currently working towards earning a commercial pilot license and becoming a commercial flight instructor.
“That’s what my goal is right now – to teach people how to fly,” said Beltramo, who’s a student with Magnum Helicopters.
His “favorite part” of flying is getting the opportunity to take someone up for the first time – especially a person who’s never been in an aircraft before – and watch how the experience rekindles that sense of “childlike wonder” in them.
“That’s why I want to be an instructor,” Beltramo noted.
He loves flying so much and spreading the word about aviation that he reached into his own pocket to help inspire the current crop of Wildcats.
“I actually paid (Magnum Helicopters) to do the presentation at the high school,” he said. “I just really wanted to share what was going on (in my life) and what was possible.”
Oxford’s auto program was “a stepping stone” in helping Beltramo get where he is today.
Thanks to the knowledge and skills he obtained in Balsley’s class, it took him “a lot less time” to become a pilot.
That’s because the first time an instructor showed him around an aircraft and explained all the various parts, Beltramo “realized that it’s basically just a fancy car.”
He told students that the helicopter he flew to OHS “has a four-cylinder engine with the same power as a Mini Cooper.”
“My Jeep has twice the horsepower of that helicopter, which I thought was kind of funny,” Beltramo said.
Balsley always seems to have a smile on his face, but his grin got extra wide when that chopper touched down and Beltramo swaggered out like a conquering hero returning home.
“I’m really proud of him and his success. That’s what it’s all about (as a teacher). It’s so gratifying to see their success,” he said. “It was so nice of him to give back by coming back and talking to the students about what the (auto) program did for him.
“This motivates the students to look at all kinds of possibilities. They don’t have to be underneath a car. With their knowledge, they can do anything. The practical knowledge (acquired in auto shop) can apply to many different fields.”
Balsley indicated he’s kept in touch with Beltramo since he graduated from OHS.
“He’s been coming back on a regular basis to visit and let me know how he was doing and what he was doing, so I knew that he was flying,” he said. “But I never thought he would actually bring a helicopter here.”
Aviation is something that seems to be Beltramo’s blood. His father Justin, grandfather Tyrone and great uncle are all pilots.
Beltramo took his first flight at Oakland County International Airport on September 3, 2015. He piloted a Cessna 172, a small plane.
He thought he would have to take a bunch of classes before he could actually go near an aircraft. He was wrong. “They let you fly it when you first touch it,” Beltramo said.
“I took off, went around everywhere and landed, all in my first day,” he continued. “The second I got in a plane, I said, ‘Yeah, this is what I want to do.’”
He flew a helicopter for the first time on September 3, 2016 and that experience was even better. “It was the coolest thing I ever did,” Beltramo said. “I was thinking to myself this is something other people do, but now, I’m doing it. And I thought that was really cool.”
“I just love being in the air,” he later told this reporter. “Everything looks completely different from up there and it’s much, much nicer. I’m really good at operating the aircraft. It came almost naturally (to me) because growing up on a small farm, I was used to operating equipment, so I had the (necessary) coordination.”
Beltramo urged OHS students to visit an airport where flight training is offered and tell them, “I want to fly today.”
“Do it at least once,” he said. “You will never regret taking your first flight.”