Civil Air Patrol

Shawnee Composite Squadron Cadet Becomes the Youngest Pilot in the Nation

Leading up to his 17th birthday, all Cadet Nicholas Mechler could think about was getting his license – not his driver’s license, but his pilot’s license.

Cadet Mechler, a junior at Carbondale Community High School, spent his 17th birthday taking the required examinations, and successfully soared into the air on Friday, March 24th becoming the youngest single-engine pilot in the United States.

“I was pretty nervous whenever I woke up that morning and realized this is the day – six years in preparation.  I got to go do it…I got to go out there and do my best,” said Mechler.

Cadet Mechler began his flight training journey at the young age of 11.  He began taking flying lessons about two years ago as part of the Civil Air Patrol.  Last year on his 16th birthday with about 40 hours of flight time already under his belt, Nick flew a Cessna 172 Skyhawk – a single-engine plane that seats four people – into the sky above the Veterans Airport of Southern Illinois solo for the first time inducting him into the ranks of those who have soloed on their 16th birthdays, an achievement that is almost unheard of.  Now, he has earned his private pilots certificate on his 17th birthday, another achievement that is very rare.  But, for someone to accomplish both of these feats is something that is so uncommon and is truly remarkable.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires all student pilots to be at least 16 years old in order to fly solo, and at least 17 years old to obtain a private pilot license.  “Cadet Mechler has been one of my best students.” Captain Aron Peterson, Nick’s flight instructor, added.  “He studied hard and is a dedicated pilot.  Age has nothing to do with it.”

When asked what he thought about getting his pilots certificate, Mechler said, “I realized at one point that I have been working on this since I was 11, and now I have done it.  I have to admit that I got a little teary eyed for a second.”

For more pictures, visit the squadron’s Facebook page.

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