Just one birthday, but three solos in three aircraft

December 1, 2012


Drew Gryder knew you had to be 16 to solo an airplane. And he figured that happened a stroke after midnight.

So he sat strapped in his single-engine Cessna 150, positioned on the centerline of a 3,700-foot runway, as he waited for the clock to strike 12. Waiting with him to his right and left were two more Cessna planes, piloted by his father and flight instructor, Dan Gryder, and friend, Scotty Collins.

At 12:01 a.m. on a mid-October night, the Hampton, Ga. teenager, his father and friend took to the air simultaneously for a highly unusual three-ship formation flight.

But that solo flight was only the first on Gryder’s 16th birthday on Oct. 14. After his formation flight, he went home and climbed into bed, only to come back to the airport later that day to fly solo in a Blanik K-7 glider and a Piper twin-engine Apache Geronimo. View his glider and multi-engine solo flights on YouTube.

Gryder began planning two years ago to make three solo flights on his 16th birthday. But more than planning went into the effort; he trained in all three aircraft to ensure safety.

Flying magazine reported that the father/son team had been focused on flight training for about 2.5 years and flying the Apache for about two years. Gryder said there were great benefits to learning to fly with his father. “I could come home from football practice and fly. And it made it a lot easier for me to ask questions and feel comfortable in the airplane,” he said.

Gryder said he wants to be a career pilot someday, but he made the three solo flights for another reason. “I wanted to show other kids that age 14 and 15 is not too young to start, and that they can also fly.”