Never underestimate the dreams of a 3-year-old.

That is a lesson learned by the family of Marc Belley, a fourth-year student in the University of Maine at Augusta’s Aviation program. Belley has been focused on becoming a commercial pilot since early childhood.

“I always associated flying with freedom,” Belley said. “When I joined my family on trips I always got the window seat and tried to see the cockpit.” Later on, as an aviation student, his expectations were confirmed.

“I started flying at 12 when my grandfather got me a flight lesson for my birthday,” Belley added.

“Flight is very free,” Belley explained. “You’re in complete control of what you are doing. I like seeing the world from a different perspective. It is amazing, too, how close everything is when your means of transportation is flight. I am just able to experience the world differently as a pilot.”

Growing up in Rockport, Maine, Belley developed a fascination with all things aviation. Pinpointing whether it was a toy, glimpse of a plane flying overhead, or some other event that formed his fascination with aviation is next to impossible. There was just never a time when his biggest interest was something else — even girls.

Violet Bemis

Violet Bemis

His longtime girlfriend, Violet Bemis, also Rockport native, always knew what she was accepting when she started spending time with Belley. Thankfully Bemis did not have a fear of flying.

She decided early on that Belley’s flight training schedule was less a burden than blessing. Trust was a factor, too, since each time she accompanied Belley for a flight the fact is that her life was quite literally in his hands.

Belley proved to be both trustworthy and a constant source of information. Each flight Belley would spend his time narrating the scenery, weather, flight conditions, and other topics. Bemis brought along her camera and to document their flights.

Though he was focused on a career in aviation, like many students he hit a rough patch in middle school. He was not living up to his potential. Belley’s grandparents and parents mused on how to refocus his abundant energy back on educational attainment.

“My grandparents offered me an amazing opportunity, matched by my parents,” Belley explained. “For every quarter that I was on the dean’s list I would earn a one-hour flight lesson.”

It didn’t take long for Belley to make the dean’s list and stay on it.

An aerial photo taken by Marc Belley takes flight.

An aerial photo taken by Marc Belley takes flight.

After high school, Belley’s aviation career took flight in the bachelor’s degree program in aviation at UMA. Already well on his way to completing his degree, Belley will graduate a flight instructor ready to pursue a number of career paths, from instruction to commercial aviation.

And when the time comes, Belley will decide whether to start his career close-to-home or branch out. As for Bemis, who will also graduate from UMA in two years, she will be considering her own options after graduation.

Even if their career paths lead them far afield, she isn’t concerned.

“Pilots don’t judge distance the same way that most people do,” Bemis said. “They’re always close by, wherever they live.”

Mark Tardif is executive director of strategic marketing and public affairs at the University of Maine at Augusta. A native Mainer, Mark has also spent part of his professional career as both an English professor and journalist.