Student, 16, takes first solo flight
While most 16 year olds get their learner’s permit on their 16th birthday, Alex Reed, a Loyalsock Township High School sophomore, chose wings over wheels and for the first time, piloted an airplane without the guidance of his flight school instructor.
Colonel Dave Hall, director of operations at Energy Aviation in Montoursville, has taught thousands of students how to fly. But Alex, who first flew with him on his 15th birthday, is the youngest he has ever deemed ready to fly on his own.
“It was interesting when they (Alex’s parents) first approached me about him starting at 15,” Hall said. “The typical teenager
at that age, the attention span isn’t that long and initially his attention span wasn’t quite long.”
Alex first gained interest in flight from his father, Michael Reed, who learned how to fly from Hall three years ago.
“When we were talking about Alex going, I sat down with Dave first and said: ‘Nicole and I are talking about Alex flying. I want to make sure that you are willing to teach him,’ “ Michael Reed said. “That was the biggest thing.”
By his 16th birthday on Dec. 15, Alex had flown over 30 hours with Hall.
“I feel that I’ve gained a lot of knowledge with the help of my instructor,” Alex said. “There’s a lot of hard work that went into that.”
According to Hall, Alex’s efforts behind the controls improved tremendously during 2017.
“It was really this last summer when he started making exponential progress,” Hall said. “He was ready to fly long before we got to his birthday.”
While Alex can’t legally apply for his pilot’s license until he is 17, he already has completed a majority of the steps needed.
“By the time he takes his check ride he will have a lot more hours than most people,” Hall said. “So although he just soloed, his decision making prowess is much stronger than the typical pilot.”
Honing the decision making process is a major priority when teaching a new pilot how to fly, and the goal is to have the learning pilot take over the decision making process over time, Hall said.
“The roll changed from ‘do this,’ to ‘OK what do you think?’ to me sitting back and just offering a suggestion once in awhile,” he said.
For Alex’s parents, seeing their son’s plane leave the ground without his instructor was difficult, but they had been surprised by their son’s efforts every step of the way.
“I learned when I was older, I know what he has to do. Watching a 15-year-old kid handle that kind of discipline, I am very impressed,” Michael Reed said.
On the day of the flight, Gerald McLaughlin, Loyalsock Township School District superintendent, went to the air strip to watch Alex take off.
“I was honored to be at the airport to watch him perform his first solo flight,” McLaughlin said. “He puts 100 percent effort into everything.”
Alex hopes that his experience with flying helps when he begins applying to colleges and is hoping to be accepted into the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado. Currently however, he also enjoys the social implications of being a pilot.
“My friends are extremely interested and I love answering their questions and seeing that they are engaged by what I do,” he said.