Sask teen pilot among countrys youngest fliers

Sara Striker has earned a distinction achieved by few people her age: she’s one of Canada’s youngest student pilots.The 14-year-old, who attends high school in Warman, spent most of her summer flying, attaining her student pilot permit and taking her first solo flight on Aug. 30 in a Cessna 150.Striker caught the flying bug early, watching her father Ron work as a commercial bush pilot in the north. He flew float planes for most of his career.At two years old, she’d sit by the controls in his plane as he flew. She recalls an incident when she was still quite young when she yanked at the control column, making her mom queasy.By the time she was nine or 10, her father started to show her how to fly.“I’ve been focusing on flying for a lot of my life,” she said.She trained with Kristen Penner at Millennium Aviation in Saskatoon for about a month over the summer.Story continues belowThis advertisement has not loaded yet,but your article continues below.Penner calls Striker an excellent pilot with good judgment, noting she handled tough situations — such as learning how to spin well under a time crunch — really well.Striker said she finds flying relaxing and enjoys having Penner as a flight companion — they share laughs during flights. She finds landings to be the most challenging and is working on levelling off at the right time.According to Transport Canada, approximately seven 14-year-olds hold student pilot permits in the aeroplane category. They aren’t fully licensed and must be supervised by a fully licensed instructor.To apply for a recreational pilot permit, a person has to be at least 16; they must be at least 17 to apply for a private pilot licence.When Striker made her first solo flight, Penner observed from the ground.“At first, it was nerve-racking for me,” Striker said. “But once the wheels got off the ground, I just thought, ‘I’ll just fly the plane.’ So I flew the plane and everything went all right.”Penner said she had a moment on the Monday before Striker’s solo flight when she was stressed about it.“It’s just that she was so young. Her piloting skills were excellent, her judgment was excellent. I wasn’t worried about her otherwise. If she had been 21 years old, I’d have no problems with it. It’s just that she’s 14 — you want to put her in a bubble, protect her.”Striker is the youngest student Penner has trained.She plans to continue flying a couple times a month throughout the school year. Striker said she envisions a career as a pilot — first starting with float planes up north, and then moving on to commercial airliners.tjames@postmedia.com

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