It’s your birthday, and as a bonus, it’s Saturday. You can kick back, or you can take a test in the morning, and if all goes well, another in the afternoon.
Benson Williams of Shreveport, Louisiana, chose option B—in fact, he had been planning to do so for a long time. The result of his labors on Dec. 10, 2016, the day he turned 17, was that he became a private pilot, airplane, single-engine land, in the morning, and tacked on his instrument rating that afternoon.
Pilots are plentiful who have participated in the happy tradition of taking a flight test on the first day of their eligibility, which in Williams’ case, for a private pilot ticket in a powered aircraft, was upon turning 17. A related tradition is to solo on the first possible day—which Williams had accomplished the previous year in a Cessna 182.
It’s been a natural progression for someone who has grown up with aviation and since age 5 has occupied cockpits of aircraft from helicopters to a Citation CJ3+ business jet with his father, C. Allen Williams, a 7,000-hour airline transport pilot and 25-year AOPA member who is an oil-and-gas exploration entrepreneur from Shreveport.
Interposing flight training into a busy high school junior’s schedule means seizing scheduling opportunities. Williams' father credits the success of his son’s program to Robert “Brian” Morgan of Springfield, Missouri-based Premier Flight Center, including Morgan’s hosting of the student in his home at Gimlin Airport, south of Springfield, for some concentrated training along the way.
“They kept the plane right there behind the house,” the senior Williams said, adding, “He’s a unique guy and has a passion for teaching.”
A four-day block of Williams’ training while staying at a Texas ranch helped him prepare for his instrument rating by flying six hours a day in the south Texas “perfect weather.”
IFR and perfect weather?
“Perfect weather to train in,” he explained, describing his flight time, shooting approaches in conditions typified by 1,000-foot ceilings. “The real stuff is definitely a lot more than what people think it’s going to be, in my opinion.”
As for the future, Williams hasn’t ruled out setting his sights on the airlines. He’s sure he wants to take on “more advanced flying.” Later in life, he can see himself piloting a bigger airplane than the single-engine Cessnas and the Beechcraft Baron G58 he flew during training.
His advice for success in flight training focuses on motivation and determination.
“I think just practice to make perfection,” he said. “You’ve got to never give up. Get up every day saying, ‘You can do it.’”