About 18 months ago, I had the privilege to watch a young man become the youngest African American to solo an aircraft and receive his pilots license. The record came about at the Boundary Bay Airport in Delta B.C. We watched from midfield in a hover and I followed him with the Chopper 9 FLIR camera. As 15 year old Kenny Roy of California began his flight, I was beaming live pictures back to CTV control in Vancouver. The signal from there was being sent via satellite back to TV stations back in the L.A area. Young Mr. Roy took off and maneuvered into what is called the "circuit". This is a flight pattern that takes him to the north side of the airport in a clockwise "circuit" back into an approach for the main runway. We all listened as the he called the tower to request his first "touch and go". He approached and then set his wheels down with what seemed like little effort and then accelerated to lift off once more. This was repeated and finally after several minutes our hero requested landing. Again he touched the plane down and taxied his way into the record book. I had felt privileged to have seen the accomplishment first hand.
This past Friday another young man was flying up from the same flight school as Mr. Roy had attended. This time this particular young fellow was flying a helicopter. He was going to attempt to become the youngest person to fly solo both a fixed wing and a helicopter,,,, on the same day!
Again I was lucky enough to be on the ground, waiting for 14 year old Jonathan Strickland and his Instructor pilot Robin Petgrave.
14 year old Jonathan Strickland landing at Boundary Bay Airport and into the record books last FridayYoung Jonathan piloted himself into the record books by becoming the youngest person to pilot a helicopter internationally. He bought the Robinson 44 into a hover just above the big yellow "H" directly in from of the main Boundary Bay Terminal and touched down like he had been doing this his whole life.
We got to speak to them both and it was in a conversation with Mr. Petgrave that we had learned of young Jonathan's story. Jonathan became interested in flying as he watched with is grandfather the live broadcast of Mr. Roy's historic fight 18 months earlier. It was then that Jonathan's grand dad challenged him to get involved. And so he did. Most of the young people that go to Mr. Petgrave's flight school are from the inner city. These kids have challenges that many of us have never had to experience. Young men and women work around the hangar for flight lessons. They help clean aircraft, sweep the hangar and generally help out with the day to day things that need gettin' done around the hangar. They learn discipline, the value of hard work and become solid young citizens as they drive toward their dream of flight. We were told that Jonathan worked especially hard to be given this opportunity.
Jonathan Strickland and Chief Pilot Robin Petgrave Photos courtesy of Tyler Johnson Boundary Bay AirportToday Jonathan became the youngest person to fly both fixed and rotary wing and received both licenses on the same day. I cannot help but feel that our broadcast 18 months ago helped inspire this young man to boldly go where no 14 year old has gone before.
You can check out Robin Petgrave's web site for more information about his program to inspire young people to become involved in the world of aviation.
You never know young Jonathan might be flying an ENG Helicopter near you someday.