Pilot Journal
Saturday, July 1, 2006

Soloing At 14 Years Old


He’s the world’s youngest air show pilot and much, much more


Soloing At 14 Years OldJamail 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.’”" />

All of a sudden, Jamail found himself in a media frenzy. Immediately the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program appointed him as their national spokesperson. At their behest, he hit the road, visiting school after school after school, speaking to his peers about accomplishing anything they put their minds to.

Traveling, however, made it difficult for him to earn money to finance his flying. So Jamail launched a Website that sold products for King Schools, Rod Machado, Gulf Coast Avionics and other organizations. While he was en route to speaking engagements (often using that time to do his high school homework), www.JamailLarkins.com generated his flying allowance.

When he finally turned 16—old enough to fly solo in the United States—Cirrus Design flew a brand new SR20 down to Atlanta so that Jamail could repeat his Canadian accomplishment over the skies of his native Georgia. More than five hundred people and a trove of media watched as the young man taxied out to the active runway.

Not surprisingly, the name Jamail Larkins was on the lips of many pilots. He began getting encouraging e-mails from aviators like Patty Wagstaff and Steve Oliver. And one day, U.S. Aerobatic Team member Ellen Dean invited him to St. Augustine to fly in an Extra 300. “It was some of the most exciting flying I had ever done,” Jamail says with a big smile. In addition to what he was already doing, he decided he also wanted to be an air show pilot.

Just two years after he “soloed” in the United States, Jamail put together a business plan to offset the expenses of aircraft ownership with income from air show performances. He bought a Christen Eagle and began exhaustively training with Buck Roetman of Atlanta’s Red Eagle air show team. At the end of that summer, he passed his Aerobatic Competency Evaluation (a requirement of the International Council of Air Shows before performing in American or Canadian air shows). A month and a half later he flew his first air show.

“It’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, but also one of the most relaxing,” Jamail admits. “I get inside an airplane and it’s an escape from all the other things I have to do.”




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