Saturday, December 06, 2014

Pinkerton's Shawn Grinnell flies solo for the first time

Col. Kevin Grady, U.S. Air Force (ret.), of the Daedalians presented Pinkerton Academy junior Shawn Grinnell with the traditional solo flight jacket on Tuesday in recognition of her flying alone. (Courtesy)

DERRY — Already the first female commander of Pinkerton Academy’s Junior ROTC program, junior Shawn Grinnell achieved another personal milestone recently when she flew solo in a single-engine plane.

On Tuesday, the Daedalians flying club presented Grinnell with a solo jacket for her accomplishment.

Grinnell said the solo flight from Boire field in Nashua was definitely an exhilarating experience.

“I’m only 16, so to be able to actually go up and fly that thing myself was pretty amazing I’d say,” she said of the flight in the Cessna 172.

She credited her father, Allen Grinnell, who is a private pilot, with influencing her to pursue flying.

“My dad is a pilot so it’s kind of like carrying on the family legacy per se,” she said.

Lt. Col Howie Steadman, JROTC adviser, said a Pinkerton student might solo every two or three years, so it’s a major achievement

“It’s a great accomplishment for anybody to take a plane up and just go flying around all by yourself,” Steadman said. “So it’s a super accomplishment on her part; we are really proud of her.”

Grinnell grew up in Derry and knew at an early age that she wanted to become a pilot. The family is related to Derry native, astronaut Alan Shepard Jr., the first American in space.

She became the first female commander of JROTC in Pinkerton’s 14 year history of the program. Grinnell had an active summer and spent a week at the Air Force Academy and Naval Academy. She also went on a mission trip to Ecuador during the summer break.

She tried to work on her flying over the summer but understandably fell behind because of all of her other activities. But after classes resumed in the fall, she was able to find some time to concentrate more on flying and complete her solo flight, she said.

Following in her father’s footsteps, Grinnell plans to pursue her private pilot’s license.

She recently submitted her application and is waiting to hear back from the Air Force Academy.

Aiming even higher, she hopes to one day become an astronaut.

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