Monday, January 02, 2012

Teen earns pilot license: Apple Valley Airport (KAPV), California

Justin McBurnery, 17, just earned his private pilot's license. McBurnery's interest in flying began when he was 10 years old.

APPLE VALLEY • High School Senior Justin McBurney just got his license, but don't look for him on the road — look for him in the sky.

Last November, the student pilot celebrated his 16th birthday by accomplishing his goal of flying solo over the skies of Apple Valley in several single-engine aircraft.

A year later, on Dec. 19, McBurney completed his second goal by earning his private pilot license, which he celebrated by giving his mother, Jeneace, a ride in a 1946 Aeronca Champ aircraft.

“I decided to take my mom because I thought it would be a fun thing to do,” said McBurney, who piloted the vintage aircraft designed with no electrical system, few gauges and no radio.

“It was an exciting moment to realize I was his first passenger, now that he is an actual certificated pilot,” said McBurney’s mother. “I look forward to seeing what the future holds for him. I’m a proud mom. What more can I really say?”

McBurney, a student at Granite Hills, said he rented the hand-propped plane — owned my Midway Aviation and parked at the Apple Valley Airport — because of its history, maneuverability and “because it’s just such a fun airplane to fly.”

To obtain his license, McBurney said he needed a total of 40 training hours in the air and on the ground, working on everything from stalls to pre-flight preparation.

“Because I’ve flown for so long, I ended up with something like 140 hours before I got my license,” said McBurney, whose mother and father, Gary, are both licensed pilots.

“My dad was my instructor and being in the air with him since I was 10 really helped a lot,” McBurney said. “Basically, I had a lot of solo time by myself and lots of time with my dad during the last month.”

McBurney, who spent most of his time training in his family’s Cessna 172, said the older Champ aircraft was a bit of a challenge due to the design of the landing gear and non-existent nose wheel.

“If you just stay focused and know what you’re doing, there should be no problem,” McBurney said.

After graduation, the young pilot said he would like to investigate the possibility of obtaining a degree in aeronautical engineering and working for an aircraft company.

McBurney said the only thing that could ground him is the high price of aviation fuel, which comes in at roughly $5 a gallon.

“I don’t know exactly what I want to do with my life,” McBurney said. “Whether flying becomes a career or not, I just want to have fun with it.”

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