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EAA AirVenture Today is published by the Experimental Aircraft Association for EAA AirVenture from July 27 - August 3. It is distributed free on the convention grounds as well as other locations in Oshkosh and surrounding communities. Stories and photos are copyrighted 2008 by EAA AirVenture Today and EAA. Reproduction by any means is prohibited without written consent.

  

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The official daily newspaper of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh


Volume 9, Number 5 July 31, 2008     

Smith setting records at 16
By Barbara A. Schmitz

Birthday Bash. Sixteen-year-old Errick Smith celebrated the big birthday by soloing two helicopters and an airplane. Beats cars, eh, Errick? Photo by Dave Higdon

Errick Smith said flying an airplane is like riding a bicycle and flying a helicopter is like riding a unicycle while bouncing a ball.

The 16-year-old from Ocean Spring, Mississippi, should know. Two weeks ago, on July 21, he set a U.S. record when he became the youngest to solo an airplane and two helicopters on the same day.

Smith, who is at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2008 until Friday, said he got interested in aviation when his uncle, an aerial photographer, asked him to come along on a shoot. "I immediately loved it," he said. "The second I went up I knew I had to learn how to do this."

While he was enamored with rotor-wing aircraft, instructors suggested he start with fixed-wing. So on his 14th birthday in 2006, his parents surprised him with his first flight lesson in a Cessna 172. In the two short years since, Smith has soloed, earned his private certificate, and logged more than 100 hours in the air. He is also working on his instrument rating, when he isn’t setting records, that is.

Smith said an instructor first mentioned the idea of setting a record. He hoped to become the youngest person to solo a helicopter in the United States, but someone else beat him to it. So he went after another record–soloing a helicopter and airplane on the same day. But he did one step better and soloed an airplane, a Cessna 172, and two helicopters, an R22 and a Schweitzer, in Atlanta.

Smith said the flights went off uneventfully. First he went up with his fixed-wing instructor who showed him three possible landings. Then they landed, and the instructor jumped out. "That was the only time I was nervous, but then I realized I just had to do what I knew," Smith said. "So I went out and flew the airplane."

Next he flew the R22, again going up with an instructor first and then by himself. Actually, he wasn’t by himself. Because he’s too light, he needed to carry a jug of water in the passenger side.

When he set down, he had officially set the record. But Smith went up the final time, this time in the Schweitzer helicopter, again with an instructor first and then by himself.

"It was pretty much uneventful, and that’s the way I like it," he said. When he landed and jumped out of the aircraft, his instructor immediately came to shake his hand. And that’s when friends dumped two 5-gallon pails of water on him. "It was just good fun, but I was wet all the way home."

Smith said he decided to go for the record to show other young people what they can do when they set their mind to something. "When I like something, I really like something," he said. "When I set my mind to something, I stay focused."

His mother, Deonda Smith, said Errick has never been involved in sports. "This is his sport. This is what he likes to do."

Smith plans to continue working on his rating and logging more time, but he isn’t sure what he wants to do as a career. "But I know it will somehow be related to aviation."

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