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