Los Angeles Teens Solo Six Planes, Helicopter In One Day


Last weekend, two Los Angeles-area teenagers completed what they hope will be a record-setting solo marathon, flying six airplanes and a helicopter on the same day. Kelly Anyadiki and Jonathan Strickland, both 16, are among the more than 800 young flight students who participate in aviation-themed after-school aviation programs provided by Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum at the Compton/Woodley Airport in Compton, Calif. The museum, founded by Celebrity Helicopters chief pilot Robin Petgrave, offers subsidized flight training to underprivileged and inner-city children in grades K-12. Kids earn credits toward instruction by washing planes and other volunteer activities. “If you see the lives of some of these kids, the museum is really an opportunity for them to do something positive,” he said.

Within the span of about six hours, Strickland soloed a Cessna 172RG, a glass-panel 172SP, a Cessna 152, a Piper Warrior, a Sting Sport, a Remos light sport aircraft, and a Robinson R44 helicopter. Anyadiki flew the 172SP, 152, Remos and the Warrior. It was her first solo and her sixteenth birthday. Strickland has logged about 150 hours of flight training and had previously soloed in Canada at age 14. Several flight instructors, including Petgrave, were on hand Saturday to coach the students and sign their logbooks. Maj. Levi H. Thornhill, 85, one of four original Tuskegee Airmen, also attended. “We gotta keep the kids off the streets,” he told the Long Beach Press-Telegram. Actor Michael Dorn, who played Lt. Commander Worf on the television show “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” was also there to cheer the kids on, Petgrave said. “We weren’t pushing them or anything,” he said when asked about the day’s schedule, adding that he told both of the anxious teens, “there’s a hundred and one things that will make this not happen. The Tuskegee Airmen are getting their dreams fulfilled just by you making the effort.”