Taking Flight: HHS senior completes first solo flight

Published 7:07 pm Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wyatt Lyons is no stranger when it comes to soaring through the air.
The Hampton High School senior forward showed his hops on the hardwood during basketball season but recently took to the air in a different fashion by completing his first solo flight on Friday, April 14, from the Elizabethton Municipal Airport.
“The experience wasn’t too bad,” Lyons said. “It was a little weird not having some beside me, so before I took off, I stopped to say a quick prayer, and that eased my nerves quite a bit. The first time around the pattern was a little nerve racking, but after I landed the first time I know, I would be fine.”
Aviation county has taken off across the country, according to Shannon Drinnon with the Carter County Schools Career and Technical Department who was Lyons instructor, thanks to an exclusive partnership with the Watauga Eagle Squadron.
“The WES and Carter County Schools formed a partnership many years ago to provide students an opportunity to experience aviation and potentially pursue a career in the industry,” Drinnon said. “Students who concentrate in aviation through the CTE Department are encouraged to join WES. The WES was created locally through the Brumit Charitable Foundation to encourage students not to use alcohol, tobacco or drugs.”
Drinnon added the club encourages post-secondary education, personal responsibility and community service.
“The students who decide to join the WES are required to sign a contract declaring they will not drink alcohol, use drugs or tobacco,” he said. “In exchange for the declaration and some community service, students can receive flight training at a much-reduced cost.”
Lyons was quick to give credit to his instructor for his solo endeavor.
“I have to give all the credit to Mr. Drinnon,” he said. “He is an outstanding teacher and role model. Ever since my first flight, he has been telling me things I could do to make myself a better pilot. Even right down before I soloed, he was giving me tips.
“I always look forward to flying,” Lyons continued. “It is a privilege not too many people get to have. I consider myself very lucky to do it at such a young age.”
Flying solo isn’t an easy task either, according to Drinnon.
“In order for Wyatt to legally fly solo, he had to meet lengthy and high stands set by the Federal Aviation Administration,” he said. “Wyatt had to first pass a flight physical; he had to pass a pre-solo test on aeronautical knowledge that included airspace rules, procedures, flight characteristics and operational limitations of the airplane. Furthermore, he had to satisfactorily perform and log pre-solo flight training in 15 areas, which included various stalls, emergency procedures, and ground reference maneuvers. Although not required, Wyatt received some additional training in controlled airspace and primary navigation.
“Wyatt is a great student and excels both in the classroom and in the airplane,” he continued. “He has a willingness to work hard and go the extra mile. I enjoyed teaching him how to fly.”
Drinnon added that many CTE graduates have gone on into the aviation industry in a variety of roles.
“We have former students working as pilots, in aircraft maintenance, and many joined the Air Force in a variety of aviation-related jobs,” he said.
And Lyons hopes to continue that trend following graduation.
“I am hoping to go on to a four-year school and after that hopefully become a pilot of some sort,” he said. “Hopefully an airline pilot.”

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