- Posted June 29, 2013 by
16 Year Old Solos in Aircraft
While most teenagers anxiously await their 16th birthday to get a permit to drive, Avery Katz planned to celebrate the day several hundred feet in the air, alone in a cockpit, soaring across the skies.
Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate on June 13, but the next afternoon the skies were sunny – perfect for flight.
"It’s pretty suspenseful building up to the solo," said Katz, since the instructor decides that day whether the pilot is ready.
After doing a few takeoffs and landings with Alex Soroka of Executive Flyers Aviation, the Lincoln-Sudbury sophomore finally got his chance.
"When he gave the go ahead, it’s really an exciting moment," said Katz, who admits he was a bit timid. "Even though you fly a lot, the first solo you get nervous," he said
He conducted the preflight checks, taxied down the runway, got the clearance for takeoff, and pushed the throttle for maximum power on the Cessna 172S. He rolled further down the runway at Hanscom Field, and pulled the control column backward to raise the nose.
And then it happened:
And higher he went to a height of 1,200 feet.
After a few seconds, Katz was sailing through the air, as his parents, Barry and Ronda Katz, and his instructor watched from the ground.
Once in flight, the nerves settled. Having done the maneuvers hundreds of times in practice, his confidence kicked in, and Katz enjoyed the half-hour circling Hanscom AFB, doing two touch-and-goes in the process, before coming back to earth.
Watching in awe, Ronda Katz said she wondered what was going through her son’s mind and how he must have felt being at the controls all by himself.
She said at no point was she nervous, noting that she was confident that he "received excellent training" and that "he wouldn't be sent up to solo until he had all of the necessary skills and knowledge."
"Honestly, his father and I were just so excited that he was finally getting to fly solo," his mother added. "We were extremely proud and so grateful to be able to be there and observe him during this once-in-a-lifetime experience."
Katz, who plans to pursue a career in aviation, has dreamed of flying for as long as he can remember.
"I’ve always been interested in flying," he said. "My friends and I used to play on a flight simulator on the computer."
Two years ago, he wanted to further his knowledge so he searched online and discovered a one-week summer camp in Florida for middle and high school students interested in learning to fly.
He loved the camp at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University so much he decided to attend a second year, where he learned the more technical stuff, such as takeoffs and landings.
In the fall of 2012, Katz began taking lessons at Executive Flyers Aviation in Bedford, with the goal of flying solo when he turned 16, the youngest allowable age.
Katz, a member of the L-S ski team and outdoor track and field team (shot put and javelin), practiced flying a couple times a month, and has flown for around 45 hours, higher than the recommended 25 before flying solo.
Katz said his friends were pretty excited when they found out about his accomplishment.
"I’m probably the only pilot at my school," he said. "I got a lot of popularity on Facebook. I posted some videos."
Katz’s next goal is to obtain his Private Pilot Certificate, which would allow him to fly with passengers aboard.
"One more year," he said. "Hopefully, next year I’ll be celebrating that."
Jeff Adair can be reached at 508-626-3926 or firstname.lastname@example.org.