Heartland teen becomes certified airplane pilot on 17th birthday

Local 17-year-old celebrates birthday by taking to the skies
Updated: Mar. 24, 2017 at 7:22 PM CDT
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CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - Most teenagers think about hanging with their friends or even getting a new car on their birthday.

Well, Nick Mechler celebrated his birthday Friday - by becoming a pilot.

Despite the clouds, moderate turbulence and head wind, Mechler passed his test with flying colors.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires all students to be 16 years old when they fly solo and 17 years old to obtain a private pilot license.

Mechler, a junior at Carbondale Community High, tested and passed on the first day it would count - his birthday.

"I was pretty nervous whenever I woke up and realized this is the day – six years in preparation. I got to go do it…I got to go out there and do my best, and I think I did my best today and the emotion…it was a lot of emotion," said Mechler.

Steve Getts, the chief flight instructor at Southern Illinois University, was the examiner for the day. In addition, Evan Youngblood, the Squadron Commander, worked with Mechler for the last three years and explains how proud he is of him.

"To have watched him progress…it is immense pride…it is very very rare to see somebody that have achieved a pilot certificate on their birthday," said Youngblood.

First it's the written examination with 60 questions. If you pass that portion, the flight instructor has to sign off the student with their approval to fly.

However, the student needs a minimum of 40 hours of flying before the "check ride". Fortunately, Mechler gained 86 hours because he's been flying since he was 11 years old.

In preparation for the pilot license, there's an oral examination where the student is drilled. If you pass, then you can go up and do the flight test, which is based on judgment, control of airplane and risk mitigation.

As of today, Mechler completed everything and received a certificate until the actual license comes in the mail.

On his 16th birthday, instead of going to get his driver's license, he flew a plane alone for the first time.

Even though this is a birthday Nick may never forget, he's already planning for the next step - to get his instrument endorsement.

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