Teen Flies Aircraft Solo

Jim Ballard has trained many eager students with dreams of flying as a Federal Aviation Administration-certified instructor of JB Flight Services in Carlsbad. However, training sixteen year old Payson Norton to solo fly a 260 horsepower Piper Comanche PA24 was a unique experience.

“It was a really cool feeling, the feeling of freedom,” Norton said. “The only thing that was going through my mind was he (instructor Jim Ballard) wasn’t in the left seat and I needed to get it up and get it down without breaking it.”

Ballard was not only impressed by Norton’s young age at which he accomplished his first solo flight, but also the type of plane that he flew. Most teenage pilots fly planes that have somewhere around 125-180 horsepower, but the 260 horsepower aircraft was not too daunting a challenge for this brave, young pilot.

 “Jim always taught me that no matter what airplane you’re in, they’re all the same, no matter if they’re bigger, smaller, more horsepower, less horsepower. You just fly your airplane,” Norton said.

 The higher horsepower aircraft presents a more complex flying experience in what is considered a high performance plane. This, coupled with the retractable landing gear, significantly increases the speed of the plane and the constant speed propeller.

Students not only study how to operate a plane, but they also are required to take a written test about weather conditions, aerodynamics and airport locations.

Ballard and Norton are both very proud of this great accomplishment so early in Norton’s life. He now plans to continue to studying flying to receive his private pilot license and eventually to pursue a career as a pilot.