CRAIGAVON Senior High School pupil Adam Skelton celebrated his 16th birthday in style, taking to the skies above Co Tyrone on Saturday at the controls of a two-seater plane.
Adam, who lives in Tarsan Lane, Portadown, actually turned 16 the day before, but with school commitments, the earliest chance he could become legally solo airborne was at the weekend.
The teenager has aviation fuel in his blood with his dad Richard, a flying instructor, first taking him up in a plane when he was 18 months old.
Adam’s solo flight, in a C42, 100 horsepower plane, saw him cruising at between 80-90 miles per hour above Carrickmore Flying school, where his dad works.
Because Adam was under the minimum cockpit load of 55 kilos, Richard had to put weights in the passenger seat to make up the shortfall!
Said Richard, “He was looking forward to it. I was on the radio to him from the ground so I was with him but not with him. I was quite nervous watching him but he managed it with no problems at all.”
Just a few weeks previously, the pair, with Adam at the controls, had made a dual flight to George Best City Airport in Belfast. On landing, Adam and other pilots from the flying school were given a tour of the control tower and the radar room.
Adam now has his sights set on obtaining his pilot’s licence, and hopes to do so on his 17th birthday, the minimum legal age at which a licence can be granted.
Said Richard, “He has to fly 10 hours solo and that must include two cross-country flights, one of which has to last at least an hour-and-a-half.”
Richard, who has been an instructor for eight years, has flown this type of two-seater plane from Germany to Spain and onwards from Spain to Ireland. He said, “They are light aircraft but they are quite robust and well equipped. The engine has the same power as a big, commercial jet.”
Adam is looking forward to being able to give his friends a ‘ride’ once he gets his pilot’s licence, not to mention his sister Anna (13) and brother Ryan (12). Both of them have flown many times and may well follow in their father’s and brother’s footsteps, but mum Carol prefers to keep her feet firmly on the ground.
As for Adam, he has not yet decided on a career path but once he has his pilot’s licence under his belt, the sky’s the limit.
Anyone interested in flying contact Richard on 07762577999.