Growing up in North Carolina, Gophers gymnast Jack Kramer was enamored of flying at an early age.
His grandfather and one of his uncles are licensed pilots with their own planes. Virtually every year at Christmas, he received a new remote control helicopter — which Kramer would fly until it inevitably broke down.
Childhood interests and hobbies sometimes fade. Other times, as is the case with Kramer, they instead become a way of life in multiple ways well into adulthood.
Does Kramer still like flying? Well, let’s see. He is an aerospace engineering major at the U and is set to graduate this spring. He’s a senior on the gymnastics team who specializes on the high bar. And he’s a certified drone pilot with a burgeoning business that could help finance his ability to fly real airplanes someday.
So … yes. Kramer can articulate the passion in more detail:
“One reason I really enjoy gymnastics and drones is it’s cool to simulate flight,” he said. “When you fly a drone, it’s like you’re in an airplane to an extent because all you see is things passing by. I’ve always liked throw and release moves on the high bar because it feels like you’re flying. There’s a connection there.”
Kramer realized he should turn his love of flying into an aerospace engineering major when, as a freshman, he planned to specialize in chemical engineering — only to find out that he hated chemistry.
That same year, he started flying more sophisticated remote-controlled helicopters, but he realized he needed more space as his dorm roommate became increasingly annoyed with in-room fly-bys.
Kramer started flying professional-quality drones not long after, and he was good enough at producing videos from the camera-equipped flying machines that a friend back home who owns a media production company suggested he should fly drones commercially. To do that, Kramer needed to be certified. To be certified, he had to take a test.
“I went online and there is an option to pay $500 and take a class. I didn’t have the money for that, but I still wanted to do it,” Kramer said of his test prep. “So I went and probably watched 10 hours of YouTube videos.”
He passed the test last summer and got to show off his license — which looks nearly identical to a private pilot license, Kramer said — to his grandpa.
He’s done multiple commercial jobs since then and is looking for more.
“The hardest part is finding time. I’m pretty much only free on the weekends,” said Kramer, whose schedule is getting even more hectic with the gymnastics season underway this month. After he graduates, Kramer figures he can find a “day job” with his degree and keep doing weekend shoots to help finance the flying time he’ll need to get an actual pilot license.
To hone his drone skills in the meantime, Kramer makes videos from unique angles of his teammates soaring through the air. The only real downside of his intersecting passions is that in one pivotal way, it’s impossible for them to overlap.
“The worst part about being the pilot,” Kramer said, “is that it’s hard to get videos of me.”