Local teen pilot flying with the big guys at OC Air Show
For Tony Woody, piloting a plane is perfectly normal. But it’s not often that a 15-year-old can be seen flying along with the likes of the pilots in the OC Air Show.
Joining an impressive lineup of professional pilots and stunt teams, Woody will pilot a Cessna Skyhawk 172 along the crowded beach Saturday, June 9. The day before that, he’ll finish his last day as a freshman at Indian River High School, where he also participates in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC).
“It’s pretty fun,” said Woody, who was the youngest flier in and got to meet other pros at the 2011 air show.
The Skyhawk’s wings are on top of the plane, so Woody will have a clear view of the thousands of beach spectators at he flies by at a low altitude of 400 feet.
“Flying’s really cool because you can see everything from a different perspective,” Woody explained. “Instead of just on top of building, you see for miles.”
At least six Ocean Aviation Flight Academy students will fly in the show, all of them training for their private or commercial pilot licenses in Berlin, Md.
“Having young people learn to fly — on so many levels, it’s such a great experience,” said Mike Freed, the flight academy’s chief flight instructor. “It’s just a phenomenal opportunity. And if you add … what it does for someone and their self-confidence, becoming a pilot is a small fraternity. One-tenth of 1 percent of the total population are licensed pilots.”
Woody noted the many career options for a pilot, from helicopters to commercial flying.
“It’s a freedom, especially on the Eastern Shore. We have lot of people learning to come out and fly,” said Freed. “Tony was given a unique opportunity by his grandmother,” Betty Russo, who signed him up for lessons two years ago.
Woody and the other students will be accompanied by an instructor in the OC Air Show. There is no age restriction for student pilots, Freed said in 2011. They can fly solo at 16 and get their pilot’s license at 17.