January 17, 2014
Ever since Sean Patrick Cothran sat in an F-15 Eagle as a 4-year-old at an Atlanta air show, he’s known what he must become — a pilot.
“I feel like it's in my blood because I can't remember a time when I didn't want to fly,” says Sean, now 19 and a sophomore at Liberty University with a major in math and a minor in aviation. “I’ve been dreaming of a career in aviation my whole life.”
He racked up thousands of hours on flight simulators before he took his first flight in October 2007 as his father was taking flight lessons. Because he had been doing flight simulator for so long, he was able to take-off and land the aircraft, a Piper Warrior II, that day, he recalls.
“Over the next six years, I took flights periodically whenever I had enough money,” Sean says, and by the time he entered college he had logged seven hours. Today’s he’s up to 60 hours. He soloed on Aug. 12, 2013 in a Cessna 172 G1000 when he was 18 years 8 months and 2 days old.
“I enjoyed every moment, and I took in everything knowing that your first solo only happens once,” he says. “Through the whole flight, I was thinking back on how far I'd come in 18.5 years and … how much God has blessed me to give me this opportunity to fly.”
While he hasn’t passed his checkride yet, the Troy, Ohio native says his goal is to become an Air Force pilot. He’s currently in the ROTC program at Liberty, has already passed the Air Force officer-qualifying test and will do his field training in Summer 2014. He won’t find out whether he gets a pilot slot, however, until his junior year of college.
“I know everyone won’t get the spot they want,” he says. “But I want to serve my country and I know I will have fun as long as I am around airplanes.”
He’s also on Liberty’s Flight Team, and helped the team take home first-place honors at the regional competition in October, including placing first in ground trainer, second in computer accuracy and third in navigation.
Sean says his father, a former USAF captain who was an aircraft maintenance officer working on B-52s and KC-135s during the Persian Gulf War, not only inspired him to fly, but to also join the military.
His father also told him about AV8RS. Sean says he joined the AOPA program for a few reasons: to be part of an aviation community where others share his interest; to stay connected with aviation news; and because it was free.
He says he enjoys reading about the other teens and hearing about their solos. “It makes me remember when I was 13 in the Piper Warrior II and flying for the first time. In an indirect way, it connects us to others who are fulfilling their dreams of getting up in the air.”
His advice to others is simple. “Don’t take (flying) for granted. Enjoy every waking moment you spend with the wheels off the ground because when you have rotated into the sky, you are seeing the earth from God’s perspective …”
Secondly, Sean says you shouldn’t get cocky. “You don’t know everything. Listen to anyone and everyone who has flown before you, and you will learn much on how to become the best pilot you can be.”
Pilot Youth and Introductory,
Pilot Training and Certification,
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