16-year-old flies his first solo from McCollum Field
by Geoff Folsom
March 17, 2013 12:19 AM | 5363 views | 13 13 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dominion Christian Academy sophomore Thomas Crowell celebrated his 16th birthday by flying solo from the Cobb County Airport at McCollum Field. Above: Crowell stands with Ben Kroll, his flight instructor at Aero Atlanta flight school Friday.<br>Staff/Geoff Folsom
Dominion Christian Academy sophomore Thomas Crowell celebrated his 16th birthday by flying solo from the Cobb County Airport at McCollum Field. Above: Crowell stands with Ben Kroll, his flight instructor at Aero Atlanta flight school Friday.
Staff/Geoff Folsom
slideshow
Thomas Crowell makes his first solo flight after taking off from McCollum Field in Kennesaw on Friday, the day after his 16th birthday.<br>Staff/Geoff Folsom
Thomas Crowell makes his first solo flight after taking off from McCollum Field in Kennesaw on Friday, the day after his 16th birthday.
Staff/Geoff Folsom
slideshow
A Dominion Christian Academy sophomore became an aviation trendsetter this week.

On Friday morning, the day after his 16th birthday, Thomas Crowell made three solo take-offs and landings from Cobb County Airport-McCollum Field. The feat qualified him for his student pilot’s license. His father, Ed Crowell, said that makes Thomas currently the youngest person in the United States who can legally get in an airplane and fly it by himself.

“Obviously, we’re very proud of him and very impressed,” Ed Crowell said.

Thomas became interested in flying more than three years ago. Also a lover of computers, he built an airplane control panel on his desktop, allowing him to better use his Microsoft Flight Simulator program.

“I tried to find something that combined both my interests,” he said.

On his 14th birthday, Thomas took an introductory flight with an instructor and was hooked, his father said.

“After that, we decided it was something we’d like to pursue,” he said.

After seeing what Thomas could do, his instructor at Aero Atlanta flight school at McCollum, Ben Kroll, determined that he was a rare pilot who could solo at 16, the youngest age legally allowed. After high winds prevented him from making his first solo flight on his birthday, Thomas aced it on Thursday.

“The whole idea of flying solo is to do a pattern around the airport,” Ed Crowell said. “The hardest part is taking off and landing.”

While he has had an instructor beside him in the past, Thomas was now responsible for all communication with the control tower and making sure he was clear for landing.

“It was very odd,” Thomas said. “Every time I’ve flown in the past, there was someone there to correct me if I made a mistake. I had to not be concerned about doing something wrong and get myself safely on the ground.”

Thomas said others can fly at a young age if they are dedicated to it.

“People who are interested in aviation don’t really pursue it until they are older,” he said. “If you stick with it and continue taking lessons and learning, it is definitely a possibility for anyone who is interested in doing it.”

Thomas maintains A and B grades at Dominion Christian in west Cobb and plays on the school golf team.

The next step for Thomas, who was licensed to fly before he was licensed to drive, is getting his private pilot’s license, which he will be eligible for when he turns 17. From there, he plans to work toward becoming a commercial airline pilot.
Comments
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Bill F
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March 19, 2013
"Thomas, who was licensed to fly before he was licensed to drive, is getting his private pilot’s license, which he will be eligible for when he turns 17. From there, he plans to work toward becoming a commercial airline pilot."

Exact same words could have been said about me at that age. Due to other comments on this thread though I won't say who worked to pay for my flying lessons. At manual labor. For $1 an hour.
Kim T
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March 19, 2013
My soon to be 14yr old is on the same path. This has always been Tucker's dream and Superior Flight School has been great. Tucker pays, we pay and grandparents pay. We consider this an investment in his future. Congrats to Thomas, many are very proud of you. Thank you MDJ for showing how vital our airport is to young and older!
Way to Go!
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March 18, 2013
Congratulations to this young man and his family. That is very impressive and nice to see good news.
A.W.
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March 17, 2013
As a person who has gotten his pilot's license through hard work and saving a lot of money (no, I'm not a 1%'er) it must be nice to have Daddy pay for your flight lessons.
Private Pilot
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March 18, 2013
Yes, I'm sure it is nice, but why diminish his achievement? And do it in such a snobbish way. Do you know this kid and his circumstances or are you just making a knee-jerk reaction?

With an emphasis on 'jerk.'
You sad person
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March 18, 2013
What a hateful, envious thing to say. A young man works hard at something and his parents spend their money to support his efforts and all you can do is whine. How rude.

We should wish there were more dedicated parents and hardworking boys such as this. And less whining losers like you.
VFP42
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March 17, 2013
"Props" to this kid for his ambition, but do we really need Big Government to pay for somebody to sit in the control tower here in Cobb so a 16 year old private school child has a backup hobby for when he tires of both golfing and computer games?
Iamright
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March 18, 2013
Why don't you read the last sentence in the article..."From there, he plans to work toward becoming a commercial airline pilot." Doesn't sound like a backup hobby to me...
Come on, really?
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March 18, 2013
This kid notches a real, and rare achievement and you try to make some far right political statement about it?

Whatever happened to celebrating achievement? Hooray for this 16 year old. What a good example to others when it comes to working for what you want.
av8tor
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March 19, 2013
That's not a "far-right" comment, that's a far stupid comment. (From a far right, paid for my private/commercial/instrument/multi myself)hoping they keep the airports and control towers open kind of guy).
Congrats to you
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March 17, 2013
My nephew who lives in Athens did the same thing on his 16th birthday in November! Amazing!
Great story
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March 18, 2013
Agreed. Young men like this one (and your nephew) should make the news.
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