With help from local pilots, high school senior Abby Martin is working towards her pilot's license. Contributed Photo
By Elizabeth Johnson
With the arrival of a teenager’s 16th birthday comes the freedom of a driver’s license. But as other teenagers work toward their own set of wheels, 17-year-old Abby Martin, daughter of Lew and Susan Martin of Wilson, has set out on the path to a different sort of license.
At the beginning of this year, she began her training to become a pilot, and a week ago Sunday, she successfully completed her longest flight to date — from Lynchburg, Virginia, to Wilson and back again.
In December of 2014 family friend Frank Kidd offered to take Abby for a ride in his two-seater plane. Though the technical explanations Kidd provided her “all went over my head,” it was in the air that day that Abby realized she wanted flying to become a part of her life.
For a year she accompanied Kidd on his flights, and the sight of her family’s home and other familiar landmarks from above strengthened her enthusiasm. In January of this year, Abby took her passion one step further by beginning flight training. With well over half the required hours under her belt, Abby plans to earn her pilot’s license in January.
Abby completed the 110-mile flight from Lynchburg to Wilson and back in a Cessna Skyhawk 171, the model in which she has completed all of her training so far. Although accompanied by instructor Jeff Lefferts, she was in complete control of the plane and successfully navigated high winds, which she said were the most difficult aspect of Sunday’s flight. As a result of this wind, the return trip took almost twice as long.
“It’s never something I thought I would do,” Abby said of her flight training. She has always loved to travel, and the decision to earn her pilot’s license carries on the adventure.
“Being able to fly 3,000 feet above the Earth… it puts life into perspective for me.”
Attending a boarding school in Lynchburg, Abby explains that most of her time on solid ground is spent in one place. It is easy to lose sight of the rest of the world, and flying reminds her of the endless possibilities in store. Her favorite view from the air, she said, is her school, Virginia Episcopal. “It doesn’t look the same as how it feels when I’m there.”
Abby said her parents have been very supportive of her flight training and goals in the field.
Of her first flight with Kidd, she said, “I don’t think they were expecting it to turn into me taking flight lessons and making a career out of it,” but they have been by her side throughout her journey.
Other pilots Martin has flown with include Jamie Smith, Donnie Boyette and Ken Sterling, who provided Martin with the varied experience of helicopter flying.
Lefferts is the instructor who has been with Martin since the beginning of her training in January.
Though Martin knew from the start she wanted to see that aerial view again, it took some familiarity with the technical process before she realized that she wanted flying to become her career.
A senior in high school, Martin has applied to colleges that offer a flight major, including Western Michigan University and the Florida Institute of Technology.
With her pilot’s license in sight, Martin is well on her way to achieving her dreams.