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Church leader teaches students and takes to the skies


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Utah Valley University (UVU) aviation students listened to a special guest in their hangar, which doubled for a classroom today.

Former commercial pilot, now Latter-day Saint Church leader, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf talked of the skies then took to the skies.

Back in the pilot's seat for a few minutes, not wearing wings but guiding them, President Uchtdorf flew for the first time since he retired 12 years ago.

Flying was his dream as a child in Frankfurt, Germany. "On those visits to the airport with my bicycle, I felt, 'This is what I wanted to be, a pilot,'" he said.

UVU aviation students invited him to speak. He told them a pilot connects the people of the world.

"As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I realize, always, that it is true. We are all children of our Heavenly Father. We are all brothers and sisters," President Uchtdorf said.

One of the students asked him about touring Air Force One when President Bush was in Salt Lake.

"I put my hands on the throttle. President Monson was standing behind me. He said, ‘Don't do it,'" President Uchtdorf recalled.

Afterward, he took time to meet some of the students.

"Ever since he was called to become a general authority, right away he was my favorite … like, 'All right! A fellow pilot!' And I like how he relates a lot of his stories to flying," said aviation student Anthony Buonomo.

President Uchtdorf toured the UVU aviation buildings and sat in the simulator for a practice take-off and landing. Then from the flight simulator to the cockpit, he took to the skies once again.

The flight simulator is like life and faith, he said. Practice well, because the real test always comes.

President Uchtdorf told the students he has been invited many times since retiring as a pilot to fly again. Today, with them, he said, just felt right.

E-mail: cmikita@ksl.com

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Carole Mikita

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