Cleared for takeoff

Evan Pflugradt

Twenty hours in the air and 30 hours from home.

From takeoff in the center of China, to a final arrival in the center of America, Hongsen Tian experienced three airports and lengthy layovers all in more than a day’s worth of travel.

To the typical traveler, 30 hours of travel might sound like a nightmare. But Tian, a Wichita State freshman from Xiangn, China, in many ways could not wait to step back onto a 747.

For his first year of college, Tian selected WSU. He said he didn’t know many colleges in the United States, but a family-friend from China, who also attends WSU, gave him the recommendation.

“It’s a good place to be,” Tian said.

Tian came to WSU pursuing a degree in electrical engineering. His father, who works as an electrical engineer in China, wants his son to have the same occupation.

Though he’s on track to complete a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, he said electrical engineering might better serve as his second choice.

“I’d like to dabble in electrical engineering,” Tian said. “It’s not my first love. I would like to be a pilot.”

Tian started dreaming about becoming a pilot at age six.

Tian shared his aspirations of becoming a pilot with his parents. They initially weren’t as supportive and suggested alternatives. As he grew older, his parents began to take his dream more seriously.

“They think it’s a good idea because it’s my dream,” Tian said.

Most days, Tian spends his time on campus studying for classes.

In his free time, Tian explores his fascination with flight in his dorm room in Fairmount Towers. There, Tian builds model planes.

A model plane project takes Tian from three to four hours to nearly a month’s work, depending on the size.

Tian arrived to campus a week before classes started. Since then, he’s built a collection of three model planes that hang in his dorm room. This adds to his collection of more than 20 model planes at home in China.

Steadily, Tian started building model planes as a hobby in sixth grade.

With classes requiring more time, Tian has had to put his next model plane project briefly on hold.

Without a car or a driver’s license Tian’s travels are limited, but he hopes that might change soon.

“I’d like to fly to Chicago, New York and California,” Tian said. “I have some friends out there.”

Tian will return to the skies in December, post-final exams and journeying 30 hours home to visit his parents. 

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