Sophomore John Lawless aspires to use his experience as a student pilot to achieve his goals in aviation

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HIGH FLYER: John Lawless boards his aircraft at the Indianapolis Metropolitan Airport. JOHN LAWLESS / SUBMITTED PHOTO

15min

What made you want to learn how to fly a plane?

HIGH FLYER: John Lawless boards his aircraft at the Indianapolis Metropolitan Airport. JOHN LAWLESS / SUBMITTED PHOTO

I always thought planes were cool since I was a kid, and, well, I never outgrew it. I was the kid on the baseball diamond who would always look up at first sound of a plane and scan the sky for it; I’m still like that today.

 

How long has becoming a pilot taken?

Well, so far I have 46 hours of flight time and 20 hours of ground school. I’m past the minimum flight time requirements; I’m now just waiting on my age requirement. You have to be 17 to have your full private pilot’s certificate, but right now I have my student pilot’s license, which allows me to fly solo, but I cannot carry passengers yet.

 

When do you plan to be fully licensed to fly passengers?

I’m getting my full private pilot’s certificate in October, weather permitting.

 

Do you hope to one day become a commercial pilot, or is this more of a hobby?

Well, I’m aiming to get into the U.S. Air Force Academy and fly fighter jets or some kind of military aircraft. That’s been my dream since I was five.  I can’t think of a cooler profession.

 

What was the most difficult thing to learn about flying a plane?

Crosswind landings are the bane of any pilot’s life.

 

Which is more challenging for you: driving a car or flying a plane?

Driving a car by far. Flying a plane is so much easier for me because I’ve been flying since I was 14 years old. Once you’re up in the air, you don’t have to worry about anything. It’s an escape.

 

Do you have any aviation role models?

Oh so many. Chuck Yeager, R.A. Bob Hoover, Burt Rutan, The Tuskegee Airmen and so many more.

 

What advice would you give to yourself as you were first learning how to fly?

Learn the book stuff. I failed to read up when I first started flying, and now I’m trying to play catch up by learning everything now. It’s terrible.

 

How often do you get to fly?

I try to fly every weekend. And any other chance I get. It’s great fun.

 

How could someone get started in their pilot training?

Go to your local airport FBO (fixed-base operator, an aircraft service provider), and talk to an instructor and ask for a discovery flight, and if you’re under 18, go check out the Young Eagles Program sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association. It’s a completely free opportunity for kids who are interested in aviation to take their first flight in a small aircraft and also get to fly it, too.

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