By Emme Townsend
At only four weeks old, he was on his first plane trip to Hawaii. Now as a 15-year-old, he’s just recently returned from his 12th plane trip to Hawaii.
Although some would dread the nearly 12-hour ride, James Root has been fascinated with flying from the young age of 3 years old.
Root and Cale Finney are students at Delta High School who are in the process of earning their pilot’s license.
For Root, a sophomore, becoming a pilot was his plan since he was young.
“It’s something I’ve always been interested in,” Root said. “I’ve looked up to pilots since I was a kid. I decided to get to know more about it and went through with it.”
Root’s family has made a tradition of going to Hawaii any chance they get.
“My family is very lucky to have the opportunity to go to Hawaii so often,” he said. “When my grandpa started his business, he wanted to start going with our whole family regularly.”
Root’s grandfather started FCL Management, Inc.
For Finney, a senior, piloting has been in his family for generations.
“I’ve been around planes my entire life because of my grandpa and great grandpa,” he said. “Being a pilot runs in the family, and it’s always been something I wanted to do.”
Cale’s grandfather is local pilot Mike Finney, who has also played a part in Root’s journey to flying. Root was introduced to his pilots’ program by Mike Finney.
Cale has flown both a Piper J-3 Cub and a Cessna L19 Bird Dog. The L19 Bird Dog was used by the United States Army during the Vietnam War.
Root plans to turn flying into a career instead of only a pastime. He believes that pilots have one of the most important jobs in the world.
“Pilots are people I look up to because they’re what keeps the world moving every day and they are responsible for everyone’s safety,” Root said. “Knowing that you have others’ lives in your hands is terrifying to some people, but it’s something you train for.”
Flying is no easy feat. Even though Cale had been familiar with planes his whole life, he was anxious during his first time up in the air.
“The first time I flew I was extremely nervous because it’s very dangerous, ” Cale said. “After a little bit in the air, my nerves were gone. I just thought it was cool to finally fly a plane.”
When Root was beginning to learn how to fly, he was taken away by all of the skills he would utilize in the air.
“The math and the science that go into flying and learning how to fly is incredible,” Root said. “It’s truly the time you use all of the math that you thought you’d never use again.”
To become a licensed pilot, students must first start lessons online through the government. After completing online lessons, students can enroll in a ground school. This regulates the information that all pilots are required to learn.
Like a driver’s test, pilots must complete a test proving their knowledge at the end of their ground school lessons. Some schools make students first fly on a simulator before they can get up in the air.
When student pilots do start to fly, most will begin with small, one-propeller planes and only travel short distances from one county airport to another. Two-engine airplanes with propellers are the next step, and eventually up to jet airplanes.
Root is in the process of completing his online training course. From there he will attend ground school in Anderson as a next step. He plans to obtain his license soon after he turns 16 in January 2023.
Cale has already completed five hours in the air for pilot training, but is currently on a break from his training due to his senior studies.