While most 14-year-olds begin daydreaming of the day when they’ll be able to drive a car around town, one local GMC Prep teen was dreaming of the day he would get a license to pilot an airplane.
Now, at the age of 17, local teen Cory Thrower has achieved the dream — earning his private pilot’s license — thanks to plenty of hard work, studying and dedication to a dream that he’s had since he was a small child.
“I’ve pretty much been interested in flying my whole life,” said Thrower. “It wasn’t until a flight across the country to California that I really became interested in it. There’s just something about flying through the clouds over everything.”
Many years later, Thrower found himself at the Baldwin County Airport for a Discovery Flight, a flight that’s offered to potential students as a way to experience the joy of flying a plane, with Milledgeville Aviation Flight Instructor Charles Stanley.
“I came out here and Mr. Stanley gave me all the books and everything I would need to get started. There were six books and lots of information,” he said. “Over the course of about 2 1/2 years, I spaced out my training. I’d go home and study and take a lesson once a week. And that continued until I went solo.”
Thrower completed his first solo flight just a few days after his 16th birthday on Oct. 25, 2009.
In April 2010, Thrower geared up to achieve the ultimate goal by reading and studying for three days before going up to North Carolina to get his license.
“Finally on April 11, I flew up to North Carolina, up in the mountains, to get my license,” he said.
Now, with nearly 80 hours of flight time under his belt, Thrower has the kind of freedom most teenagers can only dream of.
“It gets me away from everything. I’m above everything and the world’s down here. There are no problems. It’s just me. It’s really peaceful,” he said. “I love the feeling of being able to go wherever I want now. I’m not just restricted to the road.”
Thrower said his dream couldn’t have been achieved without the great support offered by Milledgeville Aviation and flight instructors Charles Stanley and John Rivers.
“The training is very good,” he said. “They’re wonderful people here. They always helped me with anything I needed, regardless of the situation. They were very devoted to helping me get it.”
Thrower, who pilots a Cessna 172 Skyhawk that is rented from the airport, admits that the journey was difficult and took a while to get used to.
“I have to do a thorough pre-flight inspection to begin with. I have to follow every checklist for every leg of the flight I’m going to be doing,” he said. “The main thing that I had to get used to was not really flying the airplane, but handling everything else when you’re flying. You’ve got to look out for other people. Air traffic control was a big hill for me to get over. Just knowing what to say and how to respond to it is very important.”
Going into his senior year as a student at GMC Prep, Thrower has big plans for the future, he said.
“After high school, I’m thinking about getting an engineering degree from [Georgia] Tech and then going to flight school after that, to help my understanding of airplanes.”
Getting a pilot’s license comes with a cost, but unlike many airports throughout the state, Milledgeville Aviation’s program allows potential pilots to pay as they attend each lesson.
Until solo certification is achieved, flight students pay for both the rental of the airplane and an instructor, but only the airplane rental fee is needed once they have achieved that status.
Thrower said the self-paced, easy-going atmosphere at the local airport made the task of achieving his goal a little easier.
“They were really flexible. They work with you on your schedule, which was good for me because I’m in high school,” he said. “The flexibility of being able to come out here whenever it was good for me was really nice because it gives you the time to really enjoy it and not feel rushed.”
According to Milledgeville Aviation Manager Chris Hamilton, it costs approximately $8,000 to obtain a pilot’s license, but spread out over time, it ranges from $100 to $130 each session, depending on the pilot-in-training’s experience level.
Milledgeville Aviation, located at the Baldwin County Airport at 216 Airport Road, is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. for a variety of services such as sightseeing trips, discovery flights and pilot training.
Anyone interested in becoming a pilot can take a discovery flight for $70 normally, and Milledgeville Aviation is currently offering a $10-off coupon for those interested.
For more information, call (478) 453-9358.