The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Photo credit: Nick Shockey /
A letter from the editor
February 6, 2024

Veteran aeronautics professor began career at City College
Professor Phil Cypret teaches Aeronautics off campus at Mc Clellan Park. Luisa Morco | Staff Photographer | [email protected]

It’s a common cliché that principals, teachers, professors and other educators often recite: I want my students to soar.

Only a lucky few get to turn that metaphor into reality.

City College’s Phillip Cypret, aeronautics professor and lifelong pilot, has spent almost 50 years pursuing his life’s passion for flight, never staying grounded for long.

This semester, Cypret teaches a full-time schedule of evening classes. He lectures on turbine engines, large aircraft systems and other topics on the technical end of the spectrum.

“The guy is like an encyclopedia,” says Adam Buelow, one of Cypret’s students, waiting in an airplane hangar at the McClellan Park off-campus center for his Advanced Airframe and Powerplant Inspection class to begin. “He knows everything.”

But by no means has Cypret’s knowledge or technical focus kept him earthbound. He still flies regularly at age 66, giving private flying lessons in the mornings. On a good week, he has his head in the clouds six days out of seven.

Whether he is flying solo or with a student, Cypret’s lifelong appreciation of aircraft always has him smiling on takeoff. More than a job, aviation is his identity.

But his experience goes deeper than morning flight lessons.

Cypret’s first foray into flight came with intensity in the Vietnam War. Fresh out of high school, he served as a crew chief and door gunner for the U.S. Army, manning machine guns on the doors of attack helicopters in one of the deadliest conflicts of the 20th century.

“It couldn’t have been better,” says Cypret, who grew up near Los Angeles. “An 18-year-old with an M60 machine gun. What more could one ask for? It was an adventure.”

Adventures in the Army would take him all over Europe, Asia and Africa. After finishing his service, Cypret had fallen in love with the skies and had no intention of coming back down to Earth.

So Cypret came to the City College campus in 1970 to study aeronautics. He earned his airframe and powerplant license and worked as an aircraft mechanic and part-time flight instructor before becoming a cargo pilot for then-new UPS Airlines. He was happy in all three jobs.

But entwined with his lifelong passion for aviation and a desire to be in the air was a love for teaching. In Vietnam he was surrounded by mentors: pilots who had fought in World War II. Just as those early war fighters had taught him, Cypret hoped that he himself could someday pass along his knowledge and expertise to students who shared his love of aircraft.

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He quit UPS Airlines to come back to City College. His career came full circle, landing in the same place it took off years prior: the school’s aeronautics department. He remains thoroughly satisfied with his career as a professor, a role he has played for the past 30 years.

“It was a very good decision for me,” Cypret says. “I’ve enjoyed every year I’ve been here.”

In 50 years, Cypret’s life goal to live and breathe by aviation has never escaped him. Whether flying for commercial or educational purposes, he has always been exactly where he wanted to be. The thought of working in any other field has never even crossed his mind.

“You’ve only got one life,” Cypret says. “And the biggest tragedy in life is wasting it in a job you don’t enjoy.”

And enjoy it he has. Cypret has experienced the all-too-rare pleasure of holding down a stable career in a field he loves for his entire adult life. He has been in the sky since Vietnam and he has treasured every minute of it.

If that wasn’t enough, Cypret’s history also gives him plenty to talk about with his students.

“He tells a lot of stories,” says Gabriel Lanthier, another student in the hangar. “But that’s what makes him so good. He’ll have a story for every situation.”

For Cypret, aviation is not a job but a lifestyle that has blossomed out of childhood dreams and aspirations. He grew up in the golden age of the silver screen, a time when John Wayne movies drove young audiences to look to the skies with a sense of wonderment and adventure. Cypret cites Wayne’s “The High and the Mighty” as a strong source of inspiration from his childhood. He was drawn in, mesmerized by any film that involved flight.

“As a little kid, 9 or 10 years old, I said ‘That’s what I want to do for a living,’” Cypret says. “And I never lost that passion.”

Passion has always been key. Cypret’s story is one of a lifelong passion fulfilled. In fact, it is still being fulfilled, sometimes as many as six days a week.

On the ground or in the clouds, in the classroom or the cockpit—Cypret’s aviation history, spanning nearly half a century, is a textbook entry in the anthology of the American Dream. His story sits in the clause of that dream that tells one not to settle for less, but to seize one’s opportunities and do what one is truly passionate about.

And, above all else, keep one’s head in the clouds.

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