Junior Dylan Zorn is taking his license test this month. Unlike most 16 year-olds, he won’t be taking his in a car. Instead, he’ll be in a plane, ready to test for his flying license.
Having always had a great sense of adventure, Dylan has been flying planes since he was 10.
“As long as I can remember, I’ve always been sort of fascinated by [flying],” Dylan said.
Dylan’s first experience flying was over Lake Michigan. His neighbor had offered him the opportunity to accompany him on a flight in one of his seven planes and Dylan couldn’t refuse.
“I wasn’t even going to ask to fly [them] but [he] just went over the radio [and said], ‘Okay, Dylan, take the stick,’” Dylan said. “He presented me with the opportunity and of course, I took it.”
Although it was not a typical first flight, it was still a positive experience. Dylan was hooked.
“It was the most exciting thing I had ever done,” Dylan said. “I just wanted to keep doing it, keep pushing it.”
He then began researching flying instructors in order to pursue his passion for aviation.
Yet his search for instructors was narrowed tremendously because of the type of plane he flies. Dylan flies tailwheel planes, planes with one wheel in the back and two in the front, versus normal tricycle planes which have two wheels in the back and one in the front.
“[I chose to fly tailwheel because] it’s harder to fly. You have to use a lot more rudder, on takeoff and landing, and…turning as well,” Dylan said. “People can transition from tailwheel to tricycle gear, but you can’t go from tricycle gear to tailwheel.”
Eventually, Dylan found an instructor he liked who taught lessons at the Palo Alto Airport. Once lessons were scheduled, Dylan and his instructor went on introductory flights.
Once he learned the basics of flying, he next step was obtaining a student pilot’s certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Without this certificate, student pilots are only able to fly if they are with an instructor; flying solo is not an option. After obtaining this, Dylan and his instructor started on training that would lead to him being able to fly alone.
“I started really getting down and doing the lessons probably in August [of 2013], that’s when the training really began,” Dylan said. “I was trying to fly every week or so, occasionally twice a week, but things come up, so [the training] took me about three months.”
After he had covered numerous maneuvers, including those used in case of emergency, Dylan’s instructor said that he was ready to fly solo.
“My instructor did not tell me what day [my solo flight] was going to be,” Dylan said. “That day we were just supposed to practice some landings, [but after I did two with him, he said] ‘Okay, you’re going to solo.’”
Despite the fact that Dylan was nervous and shaky at the beginning of his flight, he managed to do four take offs and landings successfully.
“The nerves really built as soon as my instructor got out of the plane,” Dylan said. “My legs were shaking…I was kind of swerving. It’s hard to explain but the second I was in the air, I was immediately more comfortable. The plane wants to be there… as soon as it’s in the air, you know [the plane is] a lot more stable.”
Dylan is now more comfortable flying alone. In the beginning of January, he flew to Chico alone, a three to four hour flight roundtrip. He is currently in the process of planning a flight to Columbia, California, a town across the Central Valley.
After achieving this solo flight milestone, Dylan is now preparing to obtain his flying license, which he hopes to do this month after passing a rigorous test administered by the FAA. Once he obtains his license, he will be able to take other passengers with him.
“[The test] has a 60 question multiple choice written test and an oral test where an FAA examiner will come in and verbally quiz you on anything they want for about two hours,” Dylan said. “Then they will take you actually flying…If you pass all that, you can get your license.”
For Dylan, going through that difficult process is worth it simply because of all the rewards flying provides, particularly the sense of fulfillment that comes along with it.
“I think it’s having this ability and knowing you can do something that a lot of people can’t do [that makes it so rewarding],” Dylan said.
Yet it’s not to say his interest isn’t particularly challenging. It has heavy monetary costs and it takes up time from other activities; in Dylan’s case, school and sports. Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of flying is trying not to let the confidence it instills in individuals turn into ego.
“If you’re not confident, you’re not going to [succeed],” Dylan said. “[But] you have to keep the ego in check…There’s a fine line between ego and confidence.”
Dylan hopes to continue tackling both the challenges and joys that flying brings in the future by joining the United States Air Force. He had started researching different career options for pilots after his first flight.
“I like discipline…[so I] find the military appealing,” Dylan said. “[The Air Force] also has the fastest planes you can really fly, unless you want to be an astronaut. [I also want] to serve. I feel like I owe the country something.”
For Dylan, this interest in flying planes has been the driving force behind much of his future because of the enjoyment he receives from it. He said that it provides a feeling different from any other activity he has participated in.
“If you have the opportunity to, even if it’s just one flight, take it,” Dylan said. “It’s the definition of true freedom for me. You can do anything you want up there.”