Paul Kinach, 16, performed his first solo flight as a student pilot on Thursday, Jan. 12.
To do so, Paul had to have a student pilot certificate and his instructor, Ed Kalabus, had to approve the flight.
“I honestly wasn’t that nervous,” Paul said.
By this point, Paul had logged about 20 flying hours, he said.
He and his instructor decided he would do that first solo flight at Cottonwood Municipal Airport.
“There’s less air traffic and it’s an uncontrolled airport, so there’s no tower,” Paul said.
In Prescott, anyone taking off or landing at the Prescott Municipal Airport has to communicate with the airport’s tower.
“You basically just need to tell them who you are, where you are and what you want to do,” Paul said.
The vessel he has been training in and used for the solo flight was his parents’ completely restored 1948 Luscombe 8E.
“My dad, who’s 93, said we all had to learn in a Luscombe, because it’s a really hard airplane to learn in,” Paul’s mother, Virginia, said.
Virginia, a retired corporate pilot, didn’t learn in a Luscombe, but her brother did many years ago when he was also only 16 years old.
Both sides of Paul’s family have a rich history in aviation. Paul’s father, Glenn, is currently a captain for American Airlines; Glenn’s father flew for Allegheny-Mohawk and retired with U.S. Airways; and Virginia’s father was a Los Angeles Police Department motorcycle officer who had acquired 29 airplanes in his lifetime.
“I guess it’s just kind of a family tradition,” Paul said.
Therefore, it was natural that Paul would find an interest in the profession.
“We’ve taken him flying numerous times over the years,” Glenn said. “We bought the Luscombe about three years ago and hoped he would follow in our footsteps.”
“But it’s his choice, of course,” Virginia said.
Out of earshot of his parents, Paul candidly expressed his desire to be a pilot.
In fact, he plans to have all of his licensing by the time he graduates high school so he can start into the profession soon after turning 18 — the age requirement to obtain a commercial pilot’s license.
“At that point, I should have close to 1,000 (flying) hours,” Paul said.
To expedite the process even further, Paul, a junior at Prescott High School, has been taking dual credit aviation technology courses at Yavapai Community College’s Career and Technical Education Division.
Kalabus said he doesn’t get too many students as young as Paul, but it’s usually a good idea to start young.
“Men like Paul’s father that are in the industry, they know the value of getting trained early,” Kalabus said. “It takes a while for all of this stuff to happen. Things can get delayed and drag out. And you learn much faster when you’re younger too.”
If Paul sticks with his goals and all goes according to plan, he should have ample job opportunity considering the anticipated pilot shortage facing the aviation industry (see accompanying article).
No matter what his future has in store for him, however, he doubts he’ll ever forget his first solo flight.
“When I was taking off, it was just like sunset and the moon was super bright coming up,” Paul said. “It just felt so great. It gives you so much freedom up there to just do whatever you want.”