Saturday, July 1, 2006
Soloing At 14 Years Old
He’s the world’s youngest air show pilot and much, much more
Jamail Larkins took his first airplane ride when he was twelve. As he recounts, “I remember going out to the airport. It was a partly cloudy day in the middle of summer. Mr. Fox pulled out his 1956 Cessna 172 and I watched him preflight. Then we hopped in and I helped him go through the checklist. I remember thinking, ‘I really can’t believe that I’m in the middle of an airplane right now.’” After takeoff, the airplane banked over Jamail’s house, and he could see his dog running around in the backyard. “That’s when I promised myself that I’d do whatever it took to be involved in aviation,” Jamail recalls.
But unlike many kids who change interests as often as they flip TV stations, Jamail was intensely focused on aviation. He became an “airport kid,” washing and waxing planes, running errands, doing anything he could to earn money at the airport. Soon enough he began to log some dual time. By age 13, his instructor had to admit that his young student was ready—it was time for him to solo. There was, however, a hitch: in the United States, student pilots need to be 16 before they can fly an aircraft alone.
Jamail petitioned the FAA for a waiver to solo at 13. Despite encouragement from the local Flight Standards District Office and others, Jamail was cautioned about being overly optimistic. No such waiver had ever been granted by the FAA.
Not to be deterred, Jamail discovered that he could fly solo in Canada at the age of 14. He began writing letters—hundreds of letters—all to aviation companies asking for their help. Within a few months, he had raised enough money from companies like Avemco, Cirrus and Shell Group to fly to Canada and get the job done. Two years and two weeks after his very first flight, he flew a Cessna 172 in Canada as pilot in command.
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