Forget a Sweet Sixteen party. Wyatt Angel of Mount Airy, N.C., spent his 16th birthday doing something way more fun — flying 11 airplanes solo at the Mount Airy-Surry County Airport (KMWK), then making his way to the Piedmont Soaring Society in nearby Farmington, where he soloed three gliders.
He hopes his birthday celebration will win him a spot in the world record books.
Soloing 14 aircraft on the first day he was legally allowed to solo was something Wyatt had been planning for a long time.
His father, a former U.S. Army paratrooper, has been a pilot for more than 20 years.
It was when Wyatt began taking lessons in a Cessna 140 that he says formed a different view of flying.
“Both of these feats helped create a vision for my 16th birthday,” he says. “I wanted it to be extravagant — something unheard of. With that in mind, I began to research 16th birthday solos. I came across an article about a teenager who soloed multiple airplanes on his birthday and thought, ‘That would be too cool to do that!’”
That’s when he says he began hanging out at the airport even more.
“I wanted to make my dream of soloing multiple airplanes on my 16th birthday a realty, rather than a dream,” he says.
On his birthday, Sunday, Sept. 21, Wyatt and his family arrived at the airport at 7 a.m. By 3 p.m. he had soloed in 11 airplanes: a Cessna 185, Bonanza A36, Cessna 140, Cessna 170, Piper 140, Cessna 150, Cessna 172K, Archer, Cessna 182, Aero Commander Darter, and Cessna 172M. He then headed to the soaring field and soloed in three gliders: a 126 Schweizer, 233 Schweizer and Twin Astir 103 Grob.
“Arranging these airplanes was just as hard as learning to fly them,” he says. “It took time to contact aircraft owners and convince them to let a 16-year-old fly their airplanes. Many airplanes were from local pilots who have known me my whole life, however, some airplanes were from out-of-town. These airplanes were arranged a couple weeks before my birthday, and required training in those aircraft, which was also done around the same time.”
Wyatt did a pre-flight check with each plane, then flew the pattern around the airport with a flight instructor by his side. He then soloed. Each solo took between five and seven minutes, depending on the plane, he notes.
Out of all those airplanes, which were his favorite to fly?
“One of my favorite aircraft to fly was the Bonanza A36,” he says. “However, hands down, my favorite aircraft to fly was the Cessna 185. The IO-550 was so powerful and the airplane was a challenge to land. It is known for its spring-steel gear that gives the landing gear a large amount of lateral energy upon touchdown, causing it to bounce. I love to be challenged, and this airplane did just that!”
Family and friends, as well as a number of local pilots, flocked to the airport to watch Wyatt’s record attempt. Once the 11th plane was on the ground, all gathered together to throw him a birthday party at the airport. Part of those festivities including the traditional cutting of the shirttail.
“By far, the best memory of the day is watching all the airplanes and the aviation community come together to make this day possible,” he says.
So were there any scary moments during any of the solos?
No, says the teen.
“It was so full of excitement and fun, I had no room for scary moments,” he declares.
So what’s next for the high school junior?
He plans to send all his information to the Guinness World Records to see if it will be heralded as a world record for most different types of aircraft flown on a 16th birthday.
More importantly, his next focus is to earn his private pilot certificate for gliders and powered aircraft, then earn his instrument rating on his 17th birthday.
“After this, I will start working towards more endorsements and ratings — all of this while trying to make excellent grades in school,” he says, noting he has a 4.3 grade point average at North Surry High School. His main interests are math and science.
“Hopefully, I can attend a university and go on to start a career in the health profession,” he says. “I’m leaning towards becoming a dentist, however, I’m not cutting the option of flying for a living out completely, yet. Although, it is highly unlikely that I will go on and become a pilot for a living.”
The teen admits he doesn’t talk about his flying much at school.
“If I told people, they probably wouldn’t believe me,” he notes, then adds that he doesn’t want to sound “boastful” to his classmates.
But keeping quiet about the joy of aviation around his peers may change, he says.
“I would love to share my love for aviation with others,” he says. “Being considered an ‘ambassador’ would be a nice title that I could use to aid other kids in learning to fly, because general aviation needs more pilots, and the commercial side of aviation is full of career opportunities and advancements.”
Oh, and that other rite of passage for 16 year olds? Wyatt took his driver’s test the Tuesday after his multiple solos and he says he couldn’t have gone any smoother.
“Fortunately, I passed and am now a licensed driver,” he reports.