By Luke Brantley
HAMILTON — Hamilton High School sophomore Macon Harris got two licenses on his birthday—one for driving a car, and the other for flying a plane.
After completing his driver’s test that morning, his family gathered on the runway at the Marion County-Rankin Fite Airport on Thursday, Nov. 16, to watch Harris take his solo flight to earn his student pilot certificate.
Harris completed one practice run with his instructor before going solo and making three short takeoffs, flights and landings.
Harris successfully completed his first solo flight and was met with cheers from his family as he taxied back from the runway.
Harris said he took an interest in aviation at a young age after his family flew to Disney World when he was three.
He began attending Aviation Challenge every year since third grade.
Aviation Challenge is like Space Camp, but with an emphasis on piloting fighter planes. Harris has won the “Top Gun” the last two years in a row, which is earned by defeating all challengers in simulated aerial dogfights.
Harris said he also enjoys playing simulator video games, such as the popular multiplayer game “War Thunder.”
Harris took his first flying lesson at 10 years old and has continued ever since.
In an interview the day before his flight and his sixteenth birthday, Harris said he wanted to get his pilot’s license before his driver’s license.
“You have to have a flight instructor,” he said. “I’ve been solo-ready for months, but there’s an age limit. You have to be 16 to solo, so I’m soloing as soon as I turn 16. I always said I was going to get my pilot’s license before my driver’s license, but in Hamilton, you have to get there (to the office) early if you want to get your license, so I’ll have to do that first.
“To get your student pilot certificate, you have to be at least 16 years old, be a U.S. citizen and you have to pass a flight medical (physical). The common (flight) time is 10-30 flight hours, but some people solo before or after. It’s really based on when your instructor feels that you’re ready and you can safely bring the aircraft back.”
Harris has spent the last several months training under instructor Steve Broughton with Go Vertical Aviation. Harris also owns his own aircraft, a Piper Cherokee.
Broughton said that Harris nailed his solo flight test.
“He did a great job today,” Broughton said. “He did three takeoffs and landings and did a wonderful job. You couldn’t ask for better. He was confident with it, and he did a great job.”
Harris said the next step will be earning his private pilot’s license at 17. His current student pilot certificate will allow him to gain more time flying solo.
See complete story in the Journal Record.