A father and daughter pursue their dreams of flying
Twenty years ago flying enthusiast Steven Grant put his lifelong wish of becoming a pilot on hold for family reasons.
Fast forward nearly two decades and his daughter Kyra had the same dream of learning to fly. This time things worked out. For the daughter. And also for her father.
Today, Steven, 45, and Kyra, 19, are known to the pilots at Marion County Airport (KMAO) in South Carolina as the The Flying Grants. Each has earned a private pilot’s certificate and Kyra, an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University student, is well on her way to an Air Transport Pilot rating.
“Kyra, our oldest daughter, has always liked airplanes and flying,” Steven says. “But when she was born to my wife Sherrie and me in 2000 that’s what more or less stopped my flying. The finances went away.”
The Grants welcomed a second daughter, Breleigh (Bree), four years later and that surely ended all his flying ambitions, Steven was convinced.
But in 2014 Kyra, a good student and also a talented softball player, made a request of her parents that immediately got their attention.
“She said she wanted to learn to fly,” Steven recalls. “I thought back to my time and the fact that my parents — who always supported me in a lot of ways — just didn’t want me to learn to fly. So, when Kyra asked, I told my wife I’m going to buy a plane. I’m not going to let her grow up regretting not doing it. I didn’t want her to be like me — end up working somewhere and wanting to fly. I was going to give her the opportunity.”
Grant, who has always been mechanically inclined, works as an electrician and in plant instrumentation at a mill in Bennettsville, S.C.
After Kyra’s request, he set out to find a plane the family could afford.
“We finally found a 1972 Cessna 150 in nearby Sumter, S.C.,” he said. “It hadn’t been flown in eight years.”
But he and Airframe and Powerplant (IA) mechanic Russell Fauver of Darlington, S.C., conducted a thorough inspection and agreed the plane would meet Kyra’s training needs. Grant then borrowed the money to purchase the aircraft. Kyra began training with local flight instructor Mark Jenerette of Conway, S.C. And, not surprisingly, Steven resumed flying lessons also.
“Kyra was a natural from the beginning,” Steven says. “She liked it right away. She immediately enjoyed it. And I was in heaven. I was enjoying flying the plane too.”
Steven had a head start on Kyra with a first solo before he stopped his first training years earlier. He earned his private pilot’s certificate in November 2017 and now has more than 300 hours in his logbook. Kyra finished her training and took her successful check ride in August 2018.
Along the way in her initial training Kyra surprised her parents with another request. She told them she wanted to attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and become a professional pilot. That required an even greater financial commitment, but Steven says he and his wife didn’t blink. They were ready to do everything they could to support Kyra.
In the fall of 2018 Kyra entered Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. She was an excellent student at Latta High School, Steven says, and earned a $20,000 yearly scholarship from Embry-Riddle. She also works as a waitress to help pay her expenses.
“I estimate I will have about $150,000 in student debt when I finish my four-year degree at ERAU,” Kyra said. “And I’m working to pay off the debt as I go along.”
The Grants borrowed money to help Kyra pay her ERAU expenses and will continue to support her. Their second daughter, Bree, is not interested in learning to fly professionally, but college is on the horizon for her, Steven adds.
This summer Kyra got to fly with her dad in the family’s new aircraft, a 1965 Cessna 182H that Steven found listed in New Jersey after selling the 150.
“We had to have something that would carry all four of us, so I sold the 150 for close to what I had in it,” he says.
He did the same thorough pre-buy inspection on the 182, this time with the assistance of his cousin, Dean Grant, a retired U.S. Navy aviator who is now an airline pilot.
“He flew me up to New Jersey to pick up the plane,” Steven says. “Coming home was my longest cross country and I was able to get to know the aircraft and how it flew. It was a good experience.”
Steven already had time in a 182 because of his membership in the Marion Squadron of the South Carolina Civil Air Patrol.
“I have been flying Cessna G-1000-equipped 172s in my training and the 182 is different, heavier,” Kyra adds. “I have enjoyed flying it with my dad.”
Kyra said she is now instrument rated and has 112 hours in her logbook. She looks forward to starting commercial pilot training.
“That should take only a semester,” she said. “After that I will get my multi-engine rating and my CFI. I hope to instruct flying after that to help offset my expenses and build hours.”
Anticipating her job search after graduation, Kyra said, “I have been looking more at freight operations as an ATP than at the airlines. It looks like a quicker way to get ahead and to make progress on paying back my student loans. And I want to have my own aircraft, to do fun flying also.”
Steven’s not done learning either.
“I want to get my instrument ticket and my commercial eventually,” he says. “I wish there were a local course of night study I could take toward earning my A&P rating. Not being an A&P has been a major regret. But I just can’t drop everything and go back to school.”
However, those regrets will fade with time, he acknowledges.
“Flying with your daughter and flying your family on trips makes up for whatever I missed,” he says.