To the sky: Mitri Garib

HARLINGEN — For Mitri Garib, flying is freedom.

“The fascination for me has always been the freedom of just getting in an airplane and making it go,” he said.

“It’s hard to explain, but for those of us that do fly airplanes, it’s just a sensation of freedom. I also love the serenity of it.”

Garib is the flight training instructor at Marine Military Academy in Harlingen. He’s been teaching people how to fly since 1998. And he loves his job.

He got is passion for flying from his father.

“My interest started when I was young. My dad flies airplanes, but he also builds model airplanes,” he said.

“Going through my childhood years, I can remember my interest was there when I was watching my dad build model airplanes.”

He also fondly remembers going to air shows in Harlingen in the 1970s and 80s and seeing airplanes doing aerobatics.

“That freedom right there is what I pursue. I don’t do that (aerobatics) exactly, but that’s the analogy I use to describe the freedom.”

He began taking flying lessons in high school, going to the airport in Brownsville after class. After high school, he attended the Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Since then he’s done various jobs, including air charter and air ambulance work. But he found his real interest in teaching.

“Initially, I wanted to get into the biggest and fastest airplanes I could get my hands on” Garib said.

“But priorities change as one grows up and I kind of found a passion in teaching people how to fly. So I took the route of instructing and that led me to where I am now.”

Garib has helped hundreds of MMA cadets earn their private pilot’s license.

“Most of the cadets I get are really top-notch students. They are eager to learn something that usually not every high school has to offer,” he said.

“They are very receptive and they are a pleasure to teach. That’s one reason I stay with the program. The kids make the difference.”

He has seen many classes come and go. And many of his students come back after they graduate to share with him their experiences.

“They look for me and they tell me all their accomplishments. And that’s just a really good feeling.”