October 3, 2013
Spencer Rice isn’t afraid to ask questions and he knows how to be persistent. It’s those two qualities that help explain why the 15-year-old from Portland, Oregon is not only a student pilot, but also building an airplane from scratch.
Spencer says he has been interested in aviation his whole life. But an EAA Young Eagles flight when he was 11 really sent that interest soaring.“It was an awesome feeling to take off…” he recalls. But just as awesome was learning that he could take as many Young Eagle flights as he wanted.Now a sophomore at the Clackamas Web Academy, Spencer isn’t sure how many Young Eagle flights he has taken, but says it is at least 15. Most of those times have been flown with the same pilot — Roy Thoma— who Spencer calls a good friend and mentor.“When I first told my parents I wanted to build an airplane, they thought I was a little crazy,” Spencer says, laughing. “But Roy talked to them and said he would help me and that’s all it took to convince them.”In May 2012, Roy and Spencer started construction on the Zodiac CH-601HD, the same type of plane he received his first Young Eagle flight in. They have finished the tail and rudder, and are now starting work on the wings. While at first it seemed overwhelming to build a plane from scratch, Spencer says it has been the right decision.“There is so much more you can learn,” he says. Plus, it’s cheaper to build an airplane from scratch vs. from a kit.
Spencer has worked mowing lawns since he was 12, and recently also became a swim instructor. “But as a 15-year-old, I have more time than money,” he says. He’s hopeful the plane will be finished by his 16th birthday so he can solo in it. If not, he definitely wants it complete when he is 17 and gets his license.
He started flight training at 13, but a lack of money also put flight lessons on hold until he got older. Now that he is 15, Spencer says he is starting his training again so he can solo on his 16th birthday on May 29 and get his license the following year.
His advice to other teens interested in aviation is simple: Don’t give up. “I probably started my flight training a little young, but it was because I had a hard time waiting.”
Spencer discovered the AOPA AV8RS program through his Young Eagle’s pilot mentor. “I was already a member of AOPA but since the AV8RS membership was free I could use the money for flight training,” he said. Spencer recommends AOPA AV8RS to any teen interested in aviation. “It’s a great resource and way to start. Access to Flight Training magazine has been very helpful to me. Learning from others’ experience through articles is great”
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