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Teen pilot flying highTeen pilot flying high

CFII flying a rock star at age 18CFII flying a rock star at age 18

Flying a rock star to and from a gig; earning an instrument flight instructor certificate; and qualifying in Australia to fly large, experimental drones before turning 19, Colorado teen Olivia Scout Lockhart has already packed quite a lot into an aviation career that has only just begun.

Olivia Lockhart with rock star Bret Michaels. Photo courtesy of Olivia Lockhart.

Lockhart flew in June as second-in-command of a Cessna Citation carrying Bret Michaels, who is the lead singer and a founding member of the 80s rock band Poison, to and from a concert. That required a weekend away from school, California Polytechnic State University, better known as Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California, where the Colorado teen is studying aerospace engineering. It also required a quick online search for details on her passenger, who was playing to packed stadiums a decade before Lockhart was born. (Lockhart discovered she knew some of those songs.)

“I was definitely the youngest person there,” Lockhart said of the concert, to which the young pilot earned free tickets as part of her compensation. “It was cool.”

The young Lockhart’s father, John Lockhart, is a flight instructor, Beechcraft Baron owner, and longtime member of the BeechTalk online community, where he has celebrated his daughter’s rapid accumulation of pilot certifications. (She currently holds a commercial pilot certificate for single-engine airplane, multiengine airplane, instrument airplane, and glider, along with flight instructor certificates airplane, glider, and instrument airplane.) Those conversations led to opportunities including the aforementioned flight for Michaels, as well as a movie production shoot that called for Lockhart and her father to fly the family Baron through a scene filmed from the ground and set in the mountains. In addition to promoting his daughter’s budding aviation career, John has also been her flight instructor for much of her training, an experience both said was rewarding in itself.

“It is kinda fun to hear her stories about flying around in the Baron,” the elder John wrote in an email. He noted that it is “interesting” that a young woman entrusted to fly—and teach—in a 200-knot airplane in instrument conditions “can't rent a car, she is too young to borrow the crew car and has had trouble getting hotels.”

John, founder and CEO of an Arizona company that makes software for business billing and accounting, said that his daughter’s certificates and ratings have cost the family, all told, “well under $50,000, and that includes 100 hours in a Baron! Owning an airplane and being a CFI helped a lot, but it’s just a matter of being creative.”

Olivia Lockhart passed her instrument flight instructor checkride in the family Baron Sept. 6, and said she’s “pretty much done with all my ratings before 19 years old, which is kind of cool.” With her father’s instruction, she soloed on her sixteenth birthday and earned her private pilot certificate on the day she turned 17. Now a sophomore at Cal Poly, Lockhart said she may have a tough decision ahead, whether to design airplanes or fly them. Much will depend, she said, on whether she can earn enough money as an engineer to afford flying for fun on the side.

“I can’t foresee a future where I’m not flying,” Lockhart said.

That could include flying with both feet planted firmly on the ground: Cal Poly sent the young sophomore to Australia for three weeks during the summer to train on the unmanned Yamaha RMAX helicopter, which Cal Poly is studying and flying (for now, with cameras mounted) with an eye on agricultural spraying.

“It was really, really cool,” Lockhart said of her summer trip to Australia, where she became among the first Cal Poly undergraduates trained to fly the RMAX. It may have also further complicated the career choice to come. “It definitely complicates it a bit, because I like that, too.”

Lockhart said she looks forward to teaching a bit, seeing how she likes that before making any decisions on long-term goals.

“My dad is worried that I’ve peaked already in my flying career,” Lockhart said with a chuckle. “Not every job’s going to be flying a rock star around.”

Jim Moore

Jim Moore

Editor-Web Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot, as well as a certificated remote pilot, who enjoys competition aerobatics and flying drones.

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