Aden Richard, 17, of Strong became a private pilot after attending an eight-week flight academy training session in North Carolina. Submitted photo

STRONG — For as long as Aden Richard can remember he has had an interest in flying. The 17-year-old Mt. Abram High School senior took a major step toward a career in flying when he took lessons to become a private pilot this past summer at the United States Air Force Aim High Flight Academy in North Carolina.

Richard’s ultimate goal is to become an airline transport pilot; he’s currently studying and practicing to fly using just a plane’s instruments. When he’s not studying flying or in the air, the motivated Strong student enjoys skiing, working out, and spending time with friends and family.

When did you get interested in becoming a pilot? A passion of mine I have had for as long as I can remember is flying, a result of growing up around aviation as my dad was a pilot for the Air Force. He would take me to air shows, aviation museums, into the cockpits of the military planes on base, and even bring my brothers and I to fly military flight simulators. From the age of 2 to 7, I lived in Pensacola, Florida, because my dad was a flight instructor for aspiring Navy pilots. I remember the Blue Angels practicing their aerobatics right above my house and school. It was like having my own private air show from the comfort of my family’s swimming pool.

Was it hard to learn? It was a little challenging for me. There were almost no days off this summer; seven weeks straight of waking up, going to ground lessons, flying for an hour or two, and studying until I slept. Weekends weren’t even off. There was hardly any free time until the last week — me and a few other cadets who had earned their private pilot certificates earned some free time where one of the chaperones would show us the cool things of North Carolina. We went to beaches, museums, restaurants, and we even went hiking.

Did you attend some type of program to get your license? Yes, I applied to the United States Air Force Aim High Flight Academy, a three-week program where the only goal is getting students to solo. Instead they chose me for an eight-week-long summer flight academy where the intent was for the cadets to become private pilots. There are locations all over the United States and the cadet gets to pick where they go. I was sent to New Bern, North Carolina — not first on my list but it seemed like a cool place to fly. There I was taught ground lessons at Craven Community College (and) partnered with D2 Flight Academy for the flying part.

Does it feel good when you are up in the air flying? My first time piloting an aircraft was actually not in North Carolina, but back

Seventeen-year-old Aden Richard of Strong attended an eight-week flight academy this past summer in North Carolina. He became a private pilot and is currently studying how to fly by airplane instruments. Submitted photo

home in Maine. Flying over towns and landmarks I have often visited is an exhilarating experience; everything is significantly more beautiful from above, due in large part to Maine’s lush forests, winding rivers, innumerable lakes, gentle rolling mountains, and foggy valleys. The sunsets above the clouds are almost heavenly, the unending sea of rolling clouds and the beautiful hues of orange, yellow, and red make for a gorgeous view that would not be possible anywhere but in the sky.

Are you involved in working toward flying using plane instruments? What does it mean? Yes, I am enrolled in a college class at UMA (University of Maine Augusta) where I learn about flying by instrument and even take very occasional flights with Ken Morgan out of Central Maine Airport in Norridgewock. Flying “instrument” or IFR (instrument flight rules) is mainly where pilots fly into weather conditions such as heavy fog, clouds, and even during night. There are many other rules and conditions that pilots must follow compared to flying visually or VFR (visual flight rules).

Do you have any goals to use your experience as part of a job in the future? I am beyond excited to pursue this career and to continue acquiring new and exhilarating knowledge that will push me onward toward my goal of becoming an airline transport pilot for the big airlines.

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