CABOT, Ark. – With some high school students trying to get their driver’s license, others are looking not just to take to the road but to the sky.
Three Cabot High School students have all gained their pilot license, reaching incredible achievements and hoping to continue making milestones in the air.
17-year-old Baron Gilliam said flying comes naturally to him.
“I flew a plane by myself before I could drive a car by myself,” Gilliam said.
Gilliam says he has logged 250 hours so far in the sky, he secured his private pilot license last year on his birthday when he turned 17-years-old, and months later he obtained another pilot qualification.
“I soloed my 16th birthday and then on my 17th I got my full license and a couple of months after I got my instrument rating,” Gilliam said.
The instrument rating earned him a letter from the Little Rock Federal Aviation Administration giving Gilliam the Little Rock FSDO Coin of Excellence, it says in part:
“It is rare that a young person like yourself puts in the work necessary to reach incredible milestones in aviation. Very few people have achieved the privilege of obtaining their private pilot certificate on their 17 birthday. Fewer people have built upon their experience and obtained their instrument rating less than 5 months later.
I hope that you continue to grow and gain invaluable experience as an aviator. I hope that you drive and dedication to learn continues as well.”
Gilliam says although flying came easy, taking the test to get the instrument rating was difficult.
“Well, you have to pass a written test and that test is considered one of the hardest tests in aviation and you have to get so many hours flying in weather,” Gilliam said.
Gilliam says he gets his confidence in the sky from his father Bobby Gilliam, who is also a pilot.
17-year-old Brooklyn Evans says Gilliam’s father also helped her find her passion in the sky.
“He took me on a discovery flight around Cabot.” Evans said. “He was like why don’t you get in this (pilot) seat instead and had me take off that same day and I kind of just fell in love with it after that,” Evans said.
Evans says her family also has a background in aviation, as her grandfather, great grandmother, and great uncles were pilots.
“My dad’s family grew up in a world where all of his family were all pilots,” Evans said.
Evans says nearly a month ago, she earned her student pilot license and she can also fly solo, she says so far she has logged 50 hours.
“It’s just the thrill you get being to take off and feel you’re in control of something that’s in the air,” Evans said.
Chase Holloway is 18-years-old, he says he gained his private pilot license also nearly a month ago and has logged 52 hours.
“I started in October, and it was a lot to do the pilot’s license studying and flying because you have to have 40 hours before you can do your private pilot’s license but it was a lot to try to balance that in school,” Holloway said.
Holloway says with the help of his parents he was able to accomplish his goal and flying has been an amazing journey.
“It’s definitely an out of this world experience for the first time,” Holloway said.
Like Gilliam, Holloway’s father is also a pilot who he says inspired him to fly.
“My dad flies for Southwest Airlines and so that really sparked an interest from an early age,” Holloway said.
He says his love for flying also has to do with the feeling you get in the air.
“When you get in a plane like this and you take off for the first time and you’re in complete control of the airplane it’s an out of this world experience,” Holloway said.
All three students say they hope to continue their time in the sky after they graduate.
“I would like to be in the right seat next to dad flying at Southwest eventually,” Holloway said.
Evans says she plans on going to the University of Central Arkansas but will not give up on flying.
“I am going to UCA to get a degree in Environmental Science but I’m going to continue to fly alongside that and log hours so I can get my private pilots licenses and I want to fly privately for a company,” said Evans.
Gilliam says he would also like to do what his dad does because he could be in control of his own hours.
“I would like to do contracting work, like my dad likes to do,” Gilliam said.