NSA junior flying high

Published 10:23 pm Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Nansemond-Suffolk Academy junior celebrated his birthday on March 30 with a three-and-a-half-hour exam, then flying a helicopter for about an hour.

Mitchell Hynes passed both examinations to earn his Helicopter Private Pilot Rating license. The rating allows him to pilot small helicopters, carry passengers, fly at night and to any destination.

The 17-year-old earned this certification just one year after his first solo flight at Hampton Roads Executive Airport on his 16th birthday, even before he had a driver’s license.

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“I was flying alone before I was driving alone,” Mitchell said.

Pilots must be at least 17 years old to earn a private rating, which can be followed by commercial and instructor ratings. Mitchell said he spent that year studying for an intense oral exam covering a myriad of rules and recording more than 20 hours of flight time.

“I’ve been working on it for a long time,” Mitchell said.

Aviation has been in his family for generations. His father, Dave Hynes, conducted the oral exam with the supervision of an FAA examiner. He was also in the two-person helicopter when his son earned his private rating.

“It felt great, and it was definitely released a lot of tension when I finally got it,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell’s grandfather, Michael Hynes, first got hooked on aviation at 5 years old, when his father bought him a $5 airplane ride. He joined the U.S. Air Force at 17 and was active duty for four years, later going on to found his own aviation company. He was one of the first pilots of the Learjet in the 1960s.

He fathered six children, five of whom were boys. All the boys continued the family tradition.

“My grandpa says that all of us together have over 80,000 flight hours across all kinds of aircraft,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell’s father, the youngest of the six siblings, spent 13 years in the Air Force and became co-owner of Hampton Roads Helicopters at the Hampton Roads Executive Airport off Route 58 in Chesapeake. The business buys and sells new and used aircraft, does maintenance, has a flight school and does charter work.

Patrick Hynes, Mitchell’s uncle and director of maintenance at Hampton Roads Helicopters, said it was interesting to see his nephew learn how to fly so quickly. His own father supervised his “check ride,” which makes for a somewhat stressful flight.

“You’re nervous,” Patrick said. “It’s your Dad. If you don’t have it right, he’s going to let you know.”

Mitchell will now work toward his helicopter commercial and instructor ratings, and hopes to earn a fixed wing private rating. He said he’s certain he wants to pursue either a civilian or military career in aviation.

The family tradition will continue with him and keep all of them close, regardless of the distances between each other.

“It’s something we all enjoy together, and it makes it easier to get together, because we can just fly and meet somewhere,” Mitchell said.