Eaton aviation student pilots airplane solo for first time
Eaton aviation student pilots airplane solo for first time
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Kale Burks gives the thumbs-up after his first solo flight

For most 16-year-olds, the rite of passage associated with their age is driving a car alone for the first time. For Eaton High School sophomore Kale Burks, the symbolic age marked his first time flying a plane solo.

Kale, a student in Eaton’s new Aviation & Aeronautics Academy, recently completed his first trip piloting an airplane alone, spending his 16th birthday with friends and family to complete and celebrate the aviation accomplishment. Like most people his age, he also took his driver’s license test.

While Kale said he enjoys driving a car, flying a plane is more fun and easier for him for one main reason: the serenity.

“I’m just natural at it,” he said. “With driving there’s other cars you’ve got to worry about, but up there you’re pretty much by yourself and there’s no red lights or anything – it’s a lot more relaxed.”

That relaxed atmosphere probably makes sense to anyone who knows his family, as both his mother, Shari, and father, Michael, are pilots. Kale’s first plane ride was when his father took him flying at 4 months old. He lives near Hicks Airfield, where he flies. Put simply, flying planes is Kale in his element.

It’s an added benefit for Kale and his family that being in his element now extends to school. Kale is part of Northwest ISD’s Academy of Aeronautics & Aviation Sciences, which is located in Eaton High School, also near Hicks Airfield. Through the academy, which is in its inaugural year, Kale learns a wide range of aviation information from a U.S. Navy veteran with a wealth of experience, Tim Gamache.

Currently, Kale is learning aviation history and aerodynamics. A big part of the allure of the academy, however, is getting a leg up on future competition in his aviation career. The courses supplement training from his father and give him immediate college experience thanks to the academy’s partnership with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

“At the end of the year we’re going to do a debriefing and everything,” Kale said. “We get something like 27 college credit hours, and it’s a good course.”

Kale hopes to attend Oklahoma State and graduate with an aviation degree, which his parents say wouldn’t be much of a surprise given the family background.

“We’re a flying family, so we knew very early on we wanted him to get to this point,” Mrs. Burks said. “I’d like for him to have a good career, if this is what he chooses. I’d like for him to have a prosperous career, to continue to work hard, because it will take work. But I know he’s got it in him if this is what he chooses to do going forward.”

Kale had little difficulty his first time flying solo, easily maneuvering his 2008 Legend Cub through three take-offs and landings as well as a flyby and other aerial maneuvers. His skills came directly from the tutelage of his father, who trains Kale in his free time.

Though Mr. Burks has trained other aspiring pilots, he noted that it was a different experience guiding his own son to this point.

“I’ve soloed a lot of students back when I was a young guy – an instructor – but there’s nothing like soloing your own kid,” Mr. Burks said. “You sit there and watch your pride and joy by himself, your heart kind of speeds up and you give him a handshake. It’s pretty emotional.”