October 18, 2013
By Dan Namowitz
Two grueling flight tests and a mountain of paperwork aren’t what most people imagine when it comes to a fun way to celebrate a birthday.
But most people aren’t pilots. Those who are will understand why Drew Gryder got up on the morning of Oct. 14—his seventeenth birthday—and headed for the airport to take his private pilot flight test on the first day of his eligibility for the certificate.
That was just the beginning of a very long but fruitful day of aviation.
Designated examiner Bill Mercure grilled Gryder on the ground, observed him in flight, and issued a temporary pilot certificate.
A very temporary certificate—because the next item on the agenda was a second checkride that would add a multiengine rating to Gryder’s new pilot certificate. That ride, in a twin-engine Piper PA-23 Geronimo, again with examiner Mercure, also went off without a hitch.
Wait, we’re not done. There were still two type ratings to accomplish (no further flying required, read on), so by the time Gryder’s birthday was over, the student pilot certificate he had brought to the airport had been superseded by a private pilot certificate with single- and multiengine ratings, and authorizations to serve as second-in-command of the Douglas DC-3 and the Cessna Citation Jet.
It was fortunate that he was able to get it all done in one day, because the next day was back to school after a three-day Columbus Day holiday weekend.
"I’m glad that’s over," Gryder said in a phone interview. "But it was a great experience."
If by becoming a private pilot on his seventeenth birthday Gryder participated in one of aviation’s most beloved traditions, adding his "SIC" ratings in the Gooney and the jet were "the icing on the cake," he said.
A private pilot certificate is required, but there is no practical test for an applicant who has met the requirements of CFR 61:55(d), a regulation covering second-in-command qualifications.
Gryder’s familiarity with the DC-3—and his lifelong experience with flying—arises from the fact that his father is Dan Gryder, who offers type training in a 1938 DC-3 and other instructional services as well as aviation consulting from Griffin Spalding Airport in Griffin, Ga.
Gryder has owned the Douglas airplane for 15 years, so Drew "has been around it his whole life," his father said. The Citation is an aircraft that the Gryders have had occasional opportunities to fly, Dan Gryder said.
The birthday checkrides were a continuation of Drew’s early-bird ways as a pilot: Last year he soloed on his sixteenth birthday, and he plans to be ready for his commercial pilot flight check next year.
"Every birthday I do something new," he said.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor.
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