While many of his peers relish the opportunity to traverse the open road on their own, Blythe Dant took to the skies.
The Harlem teen recently took his first solo flight just two days after his 16th birthday.
"Ever since I was little, I've wanted to fly," said Blythe just before his first solo takeoff April 4 at the Daniel Field airport.
Following an initial flight with his instructor, Jason Freemon of Augusta Aviation Inc., Blythe flew three rectangular patterns around the airport, taking off and landing on each pass.
When the wheels squealed as they touched the pavement during each landing, Blythe's mother, Mary, mimicked the sound.
"That's the best sound in the world," a somewhat nervous Mrs. Dant said.
Though she admitted to harboring some anxiety at watching her son take his first solo flight, Mrs. Dant said she understands his passion and wants to encourage him.
"He worked really hard to get to this point," she said over the noise of airplane engines and the chatter of about 25 family and friends in attendance to witness the flight. "He's very responsible and very aware."
Blythe, who hopes to pursue an aviation career, is the third generation of his family to fly. His grandfather, Leroy, was a flight instructor and commercial pilot who flew Learjets for Boardman Oil Co. His father, Richard, also learned to fly, though he never earned a pilot's license.
"I guess you could say it's in his blood," Richard Dant said of his son's flying ambitions.
That piloting heritage showed during his training, Freemon said.
"He was way ahead of anyone else I've taught," Freemon said. "With a grandfather and father as pilots, you could see where he already had a good feel for it coming into this."
The $3,000 flying lessons were covered through the Al Patton First Solo Scholarship Blythe won during the Boshears Memorial Fly In.
Unlike driving, there are no restrictions on when someone can start learning to fly.
"Just so long as they can reach the pedals," Freemon said.
However, state law prohibits anyone younger than 16 from flying solo. Also under the law, fliers must be 17 before they are allowed to pilot passengers, Mrs. Dant said.
Blythe had hoped to take his first solo flight on his April 2 birthday, but inclement weather postponed the occasion.
"I really wanted to go on my birthday, but that's OK," said Blythe as he looked up at the blue skies he was about to invade. "Today's a pretty day for going up."
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