Flying young

Published 9:25 am Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Seventeen-year-old Taylor Matz is not your average teenager.

A junior at Albert Lea High School, Matz enjoys hanging out with friends and playing basketball and hockey.

But what makes him unusual is that in the next few months he’s geared up to receive his private pilot’s license.

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The age of 17 is the youngest a person can receive the license, though pilots can begin training earlier and actually solo an aircraft at 16.

“Not many kids that age pursue something like that,” said Jim Jacobson, chief flight instructor with MN Aviation. “It’s fun to see someone that young take an interest in it.”

The Hayward teenager said he first gained an interest in flying at a young age when his grandfather took him up in a plane. His father also had an interest in the sport.

Matz said he was 7 or 8 when he first “got hooked” on flying and then 14 or 15 when he took an introductory flight and started with the MN Aviation flight school at the Albert Lea Airport.

“Just being out there — it’s kind of an adrenaline rush,” he said of being up in the air.

Right now he has his soloing license, which means he can fly by himself under the direction of an instructor.

With his private pilot license, he can fly with friends and family on his own cognizance.

Age: 17

Address: 81920 235th St., Hayward

Family: parents Dan and Kelly; brother, Garrett

Livelihood: student at Albert Lea High School; part-time car detailer at Dave Syverson Auto Mall; hay baler in the summer

Interesting fact: Matz loves cruising around in antique cars. His family owns a ’69 Ford Mustang.

“It’s indescribable,” Matz said of his first solo flight. “It’s scary. It’s an adrenaline rush. I don’t think there was a minute I didn’t have a smile on my face.”

Though there have been some aspects of flying that have been difficult to learn, he said he has had flight instructors that have helped along the way.

To obtain a private pilot license, Jacobson said a person must have a minimum of 40 hours of flight time — including 10 hours by themselves in the airplane, five hours of a cross-country flight to a destination more than 100 miles away, three hours of night training and three hours of training regarding instruments.

A person must also pass a written exam and take a practical test with an examiner from the Federal Aviation Administration that includes an oral exam and a flight exam, Jacobson added.

Once a license is obtained, the pilot has to fulfill a certain number of hours and sign off on other criteria, Matz said.

The teenager encouraged anyone who is interested in flying to try it out.

After high school, he said he hopes to get a four-year degree in air traffic control or airport management. After that, he may go into the military to use his flying skills there.

Jacobson said MN Aviation is offering a pilot ground school for people age 15 and older starting April 6 for people interested in becoming a pilot.

The course, which will be every Tuesday night for nine weeks, will prepare students for the private pilot written test.

Costs will be $25 for the course, $85 for books and an optional $75 for the written test.

There will also be an optional introduction flight for an additional cost, which will be scheduled at the end of the course.

People can call 373-9265 by April 1 if interested in taking part in the course.