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17-year-old circles the US17-year-old circles the US

Taylor De Ley over Seattle

Photos courtesy of Taylor De Ley

Taylor De Ley of Yorba Linda, Calif., may be only 17, but as he starts his college education this week he has already focused on a professional pilot career and completed a 10,492-nautical-mile solo flight to the four corners of the nation. That’s more than most kids his age. He now has 340 total flying hours.

He dedicated the flight to giving fellow teens who are “stuck playing video games” a taste of the flying adventure through his reports on Facebook, and through the news reports written about him. You can see a video made by one newspaper here. He also spoke to Experimental Aircraft Association chapters at several stops on the multi-week trip.

The trip took 71.9 flying hours, nearly the exact number he planned. Planning started four years ago after he read The Cannibal Queen , written by author and pilot Stephen Coonts. De Ley and his father, Luc, also a pilot, completed a Van’s RV–4 tailwheel airplane kit bought for $38,000, equipped it with a Superior XP-360 180-horsepower engine, and never looked back. His mother, Inger, may have rethought the decision over and over, but allowed the trip. The family is originally from Belgium.

De Ley has made some airline career contacts at his home airport where he waxed airplanes to pay for the trip, Corona Municipal, but airline jobs tie for first place with flying for Federal Express or United Parcel Service. He has chosen to study accounting in college as a fallback career, if needed. The contacts he made at Corona included his flight instructor, Dave Stevenson, who helped him experience a Boeing Stearman, a Super Cub, and 40 other models. He began his career in gliders while too young to become a private pilot.

The trip went without problems from weather, airspace, or mechanical issues. All he did was change the oil twice. While he had contingency plans for weather, he needed them only once for his one-day weather delay in Maine. Flying friends across the country let him stay at their homes

As for airspace, he handled it like a pro, although he found the airspace around Washington, D.C., to be “intimidating.” It took a great deal of maturity to make the trip, and that’s not a problem for De Ley.

Taylor De Ley's airplane“He’s 17, going on 45,” his father, Luc, told several news outlets.

“I’m just me,” De Ley countered when asked about his father’s comment. “It is what it is.” Yet, listen to this from the youngster: “Seniors in high school have no idea what they want to do. It’s ridiculous.” It may come as no surprise that his friends can’t relate to such a strong and focused passion for flying. “My friends are not interested in it,” he said. If it is up to him, he’ll do what he can to change that.

He has a head start on the goal.

Alton Marsh

Alton K. Marsh

Freelance journalist
Alton K. Marsh is a former senior editor of AOPA Pilot and is now a freelance journalist specializing in aviation topics.

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