Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Finally flying, but he's not winging it. FCA Flight Center at Fitchburg Municipal Airport (KFIT), Massachusetts.

Student Pilot Bruce Vinal solo'd yesterday on his 16th birthday. Bruce was ready and able despite winds over 20 kts. In front of his father, mother grandfather, friends and reporters from the Sentinel and Enterprise, Bruce accomplished an incredible feat! Congratulations Bruce!

Sentinel & Enterprise / Alan Arsenault
Bruce Vinal shakes instructor Pete Coolidge's hand after completing his first solo flight at Fitchburg Municipal Airport on Monday.

FITCHBURG -- Monday dawned clear and cool. Bruce Vinal III's father woke him up to take a solo flight in a Cessna 152.

It was the younger Vinal's 16th birthday, and that meant it was the first day he could fly a plane by himself.

At 10:18 a.m. he lifted off from Fitchburg Municipal Airport runway 3-2 alone even though he does not have a learner's permit to drive a car yet.

"He hasn't even asked yet about his permit ... this is the only thing he's wanted to do," his nervous mother Kristy Vinal said as her youngest child flew over Fitchburg and Leominster.

Weather and the Christmas holiday conspired against Vinal, of Townsend, but were no match for his resolve.

"I never knew somebody who is so determined,"  Kristy Vinal said.

Pilots can not fly solo until they have a medical flight exam but when Vinal tried to get one last week, he was told to come back when he turned 16 years old.

Monday was considered a holiday for many people because Christmas fell on a Sunday, but Dr. John Skrzypczak, of Athol Memorial Hospital, agreed to go into his office to give Vinal the exam so he could fly on the first eligible day.

Vinal passed the exam and arrived at the airport's FCA Flight Center, where instructor Peter Coolidge was waiting at about 9:50 a.m.

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