POWNAL >> Mt. Greylock High School sophomore, and Pownal, VT resident John Werner, Jr., is celebrating his 16th birthday flying an airplane for the first time by himself. Most kids his age find themselves consumed with school, music, sports, friends and most importantly the thoughts of the personal freedom that come with earning one's first driver's license. John's priorities are different. His passion is aviation. Having flown right seat alongside his father John Werner, Sr. (a private pilot and aircraft mechanic) most of his childhood, John has been dreaming of the day that he will be handed the keys to dad's Cessna 172. The 4-seat, single-engine Cessna 172 is the airplane equivalent of the family sedan. The most popular aircraft ever built, it is commonly used for flight instruction, private recreation and transportation.

While he had already accumulated approximately 85 hours of flying time with his father and was already quite capable of flying the airplane by himself, the FAA regulations require a person reach the age of 16 and receive instruction from a certified instructor prior to flying solo. In preparation of this day, John enlisted the help of local Teamflys' flight instructor Trevor Gilman. "Johnny is probably the easiest first solo student I've ever had", Trevor said. "We gave him the ground instruction he was missing along with some emergency training and polished up his maneuvers. His past experience along with countless hours of flight simulator time prepared him for this day."


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As John and Trevor made one last flight together and completed the necessary paperwork, the crowd of family, friends, and local pilots gathered to watch the momentous occasion. "It's not everyday you get to see someone solo on their 16th birthday" Mike Sarrouf, a regional airline captain, explained.

"Aviation has come a long way since my first solo. It has become an excellent career opportunity for local students to consider." Teamflys is a flight school and scenic flight operation based at the Harriman-West Airport in North Adams. According to owner Paul Renaud, "we'd love to see more young people involved in our private pilot courses" which typically start in April and go through November. "It's a career that our kids can get involved in that doesn't require them to move outside the area" he said.

John climbed into the airplane, taxied out for departure and announced his intentions on the local radio frequency with confidence in his voice. As everyone watched from the sidelines, he departed.

Two perfect landings later, he taxied in to a cheering crowd. "I'm not sure if I was nervous or just excited before, but I'm pretty happy now" John said with a huge smile on his face. What will he do for his 17th birthday? He plans to get his private pilot's license of course.

If you're interested in experiencing the joy of flight, contact Teamflys at (413) 862-9359 or www.Teamflys.com.