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Teen earns wings

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By James Matthews –

An area teen earned his wings earlier this month.

Weaverville teenager Eli Boothe took to the skies, Friday (June 7). Boothe, a Civil Air Patrol cadet, was able to achieve the goal with the organization’s help.

After four years of membership with the locally stationed Asheville Composite Squadron, Boothe was able to attend the squadron’s Flight Academy Ground School. “The first couple of sessions were fairly easy for me since I was familiar with our aircraft. The more classes I attended, the harder they got. I had to take ample notes and pay full attention to my instructors.” After several weeks of in-classroom training, Boothe had to pass an FAA written test. “I was extremely nervous when I took it but I did fairly well by making an 87. As soon as I knew my test results, I was so relieved and excited!”

The Asheville Composite Squadron, located at the Asheville Regional Airport in Fletcher, typically has two aircraft that are used for various missions, such as search and rescue and, in this case, cadet flight training.

A week after passing his test, Boothe found himself behind the controls of an aircraft. “My first flight in the left seat was so much fun. My instructors had me perform all the checklists and taxi the aircraft.”

His first time at the controls was not without something of a learning curve. “At first I was awful at taxiing. All I would do is swerve back and forth on the taxiways. Shortly after though, I started to get the hang of it,” he said.

Over 12 hours of training later, Boothe was ready to solo. Under the guidance of CAP Flight Officer Stephen Bloemsma, Boothe taxied to the runway, by himself on his mother, Gloria’s birthday. “As soon as [Flight Officer Bloemsma] got out of the airplane, it hit me. Today was the day; it was what I had been waiting and dreaming of for years.”

The experience of his solo flight will not be forgotten anytime soon. “Once I was cleared for takeoff, I pulled onto the runway, put in full throttle, and took off! It was the greatest feeling in the world!”

Of course, what comes up must come back down. “When I was coming in for my first landing, I was extremely nervous and just prayed to God that I wouldn’t mess it up.” His first landing was a little bumpy, but after a couple more attempts, he was landing “absolutely perfect.” He added, “I am so glad that the tower couldn’t hear me talking on the radio. I was talking to myself and, yes, I was even singing.”

After completing the nearly hour long flight, he returned to his friends and family who were all smiles. “My instructors, family, and friends were there to greet me when I parked and cut the engine. When we all got back inside, my instructors cut out the back of my shirt,” a practice common in the US Air Force for new pilots who complete their solo.

“Flying is my passion” Boothe said, adding “I plan on continuing my pilot training until I receive my private pilot’s license.”

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