By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
Those who worry that the next generation has failed to embrace the romance of flight might be heartened by the three flights launched Sunday morning by Drew Gryder, of Hampton, Ga., on his 16th birthday. Gryder, who has grown up in an aviation family -- his father, Dan, flies for Delta and instructs in a DC-3 on the side -- was waiting on the centerline at midnight for the clock to tick over to Sunday, so he could launch on his own from the left seat in a Cessna 150. His dad and a local pilot friend took off with him, one on each wing, for a special solo flight that had been in the works for two years. Later in the day Gryder also soloed in a Blanik K-7 glider and a Piper Apache twin. He said he hoped his triple-solo day would help to show other youngsters that "age 14 and 15 is not too young to start, and that they can also fly."
Gryder said he would love to fly for a career. "To other kids my age, I would say to stay in school, get good grades, and work hard on whatever career they are interested in. Aviation is a rewarding career, the pilot shortage is here, and it just might as well be us that fills those cockpit seats. We can do this!" In a statement about Gryder's flight, the family noted that "although no official records are kept concerning the feat, it is likely that an event encompassing these three specific solo flights has not been completed by any 16-year-old since aviation began more than 100 years ago."