Eyes on the skies

Published 10:16 pm Saturday, May 20, 2017

Color us impressed.

Mitchell Hynes, a 17-year-old junior at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, has earned his helicopter private pilot’s license, allowing him to fly at night, carry passengers and fly to any destination in a small helicopter.

At 17, we were still trying not to wreck the family car. Clearly Hynes is a bit more responsible at his age than we were.

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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.

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. He took that three and a half-hour exam from his proud father, under the supervision of an FAA examiner.

Flying is something of a family tradition for this high-school junior.

His grandfather got hooked on aviation at the age of 5, during a $5 airplane ride paid for by his own father. He joined the U.S. Air Force at 17 and went on to found his own aviation company. His five sons all followed their father into the air, and one of them, Hynes’ father, founded Hampton Roads Helicopters.

Like father, like son, as the saying goes, down through the generations to Mitchell Hynes, whose aviation dreams do not stop with earning his helicopter license. He hopes to go on to earn commercial and instructor ratings in helicopters and to earn a fixed-wing private pilot’s license, as well.

That’s a lot of airtime for one teenager, and a fine feather in the cap for a family that clearly has kept its eyes on the skies for generations. Congratulations to them all.