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Darby Teen Pilots 5 Different Airplanes on 16th Birthday

Darby, Mont., teenager Heidi Heiland kept her vow to fly solo on her 16th birthday, when she became legally of age to do so. She astounded family and friends by flying five different aircraft, and her instructor, pilot trainer Cliff Walters, doubts anyone has done so before in Montana, and perhaps the United States. "Anything Heidi sets her mind to, she does," says Darby High School Principal Jennifer Burdette, who was there to witness her former student’s flight. Heiland first flew a Cessna 152 trainer, and then a Cessna 172, a Piper Cherokee 140, a Cessna 172 Sky Hawk, and finally a Cessna 182. Walters says in all his years as a flight instructor, he has never seen someone with such a degree of natural talent. Heiland says she was inspired to fly when she and her father watched helicopters fight a fire. "I can remember us looking at each other and saying, ’How cool would that be?’ " she recalls. Heiland expects to fly a helicopter as well, and by the time she turns 17 she plans to obtain a private pilot license as well as an instrument license.

November 12, 2009

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