A teenager earns his pilot license with Performance Flight

December 04, 2009 (PRLEAP.COM) Travel News
A Teenager's Flight Plan - Performance Flight, a leader in the flight training community, helps a 15 year-old earn his wings. Today Alex Yudkovitz of New Canaan, CT is a licensed pilot.

"He can't drive me to school, but he can fly me to Pennsylvania", jests Alex Yudkovitz's brother, Danny, as he congratulates his 17 year old brother for achieving his private pilot's license. Having to wait until the age of 17 to obtain a license, Alex scheduled his FAA test on the day of his 17th birthday. He had been preparing for this day for a year and a half.

But gusty winds on his 17th birthday meant that Alex had to postpone his test. He had to wait a week before the examiner was available again ľan agonizing week of anxiety and of hoping the weather would cooperate.

At the age of 15 Alex finally got up enough nerve to ask his parents if he could take flying lessons. " I had been interested in aeronautics and flying for a long time" says Alex, " but assumed my parents would never let me fly." His uncle earned his pilot's license in his 20's and often boasted about the wonderful freedom of flying. Alex finally got up enough nerve and was surprised to find his parents supported his idea.

"After grilling me about my interest in flying" says Alex, "my parents laid out conditions. They wanted to be sure my interest was a passionate dedication and not a "flying" fancy. The conditions were that I had to maintain my grades and contribute to the cost of the lessons."

After researching flight schools in the area, Alex and his family decided on Performance Flight at the Westchester County Airport. "What I liked about Performance Flight," says Alex's mom, Carolyn, " was that their instructors are very seasoned and the Flight School imposes stringent rules about pilot qualifications in addition to the FAA requirements." One demonstration flight was all it took. Their fleet of Cirrus aircraft with state of the art electronics and safety systems was the deciding factor for Alex and his family. "After all we were giving our son permission to fly", says mom.

Performance Flight could not have been a more supportive environment. Alex was assigned an instructor, Rudi Hiebert, with whom he would work one-on-one toward his goal. "Rudi and I work so well together", says Alex. "I knew what he expected and he challenged me to work up to his expectations. He prepared me for what the FAA would require. We have worked together for a year and a half and he has become a mentor to me. "

Flight training is very rigorous and the FAA demands thorough understanding and capability before granting the privilege of a license. The standards are the same regardless of age. "Any instructor's expectations of their students will be the same whether a pilot is young or old", says Rudi, who has trained several young pilots. "(Young pilots) are often highly motivated", he says, "and are pleasure to work with. They bring a very adult attitude towards flying, and they do a lot of research, reading and homework on their own initiative. I think the motivation and preparation young pilots bring to their training can become a model for accomplishment and success in other areas in life, such as school work, or preparation for college."

Alex's skills and knowledge were not only scrutinized by the judgment of his instructor, but by the Chief Pilot of Performance Flight and the FAA. The first months of training were a mixture of ground work, simulator practice and many hours of actual flight training to gain the skill in controlling the airplane and to be thoughtful about its safe operation. Once his instructor felt Alex was competent to handle the plane on his own, he was endorsed to take the FAA written test and a simulator performance test with the Chief Pilot. Passing these tests would advance him to the second stage of his training and the ability to fly solo.

Flying solo is a milestone among student pilots, and one that comes with some jitters. "As I taxied by myself to the runway and awaited clearance for take off", Alex recalls, " I looked beside me to see the empty seat of my instructor and wondered silently if I could go back. Then I heard my call numbers cleared for take off. I swallowed my nerves and did what I was taught to do, and took off. The feeling was amazing. "

After many more hours of flying and training to fulfill requirements , Alex was ready to take his pilot's test. This time the examiner was from the FAA. Ironically, the federal examiner was the same gentleman that tested Alex's uncle so many years ago. His uncle gave the examiner a lump on his head when the hood of the plane hit him. But despite the lump, his uncle passed his test.

Alex, too, passed his test with flying colors, and without injury to the examiner.

"Alex brought a delightful sense of humor to his flying", says Rudi. "Flying is serious, but also at the same time tremendously fun and rewarding. Every flight, carefully planned, felt like a grand adventure."

"There are a few of us at the New Canaan High School who fly", says Alex. " It's great to have the freedom to hop in a plane and explore different places. Sometimes we go to Montauk after school for a few hours. I'll probably fly to some of my college interviews."

The next step is to continue training and work toward additional ratings. But in between those lessons, Alex plans to enjoy flying with friends and visiting places to which they can't yet drive.

Performance Flight has been recognized as a leader in the flight training industry. Located at Westchester Country Airport they operate more than 20 aircraft.

Contact Lewis Liebert, President of Performance Flight
Tel: 914-397-1444 / Liebert@performanceflight.com