Share This Page

Latrobe teen's pilot dream becoming reality

Sixteen-year-old Michael Nicely recently marked two rites of passage.

He earned a learner's permit to drive a car — and a student pilot certificate to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot.

Nicely, of Latrobe, earned the pilot certificate after about a year of study at the Westmoreland Aviation Academy at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity.

"I'm pretty excited," he said after passing his first solo flight test on Sept. 16, his 16th birthday. "I can't wait to get up there again."

Nicely's flight instructor, Bill Wright, watched from below as Nicely soared through the skies over the Unity airport in a four-seat Piper Cherokee 180. Nicely landed the aircraft smoothly on the runway.

Wright promptly signed Nicely's student endorsement certificate, much to the delight of his mother, Carol Nicely, and grandparents Ed and Jane Chronowski of McIntyre, Indiana County.

"I was proud. He did really well ... for the first time by himself. You'd think he'd be shook up, but not so much," said Ed Chronowski, 72.

Chronowski, a former aviation metalsmith in the Marine Corps, spent much of Nicely's formative years building ultra-light airplanes and helicopters. He even built a runway on his 63-acre property.

Nicely's uncle, Ron Yvanek, owns and operates Airwork Avionics, an aircraft equipment and installation company in Indiana.

"From the time he displayed an interest, I could see Michael taking flying to a professional level," Yvanek said.

That's exactly what Nicely wants to do.

"I'd like to join the Navy one day and fly an S-22 Raptor. They're the latest planes and it's been really interesting to read about them," Nicely said.

Reading, along with countless hours spent using flight simulators on his personal computer, have prepared Nicely for the tests he faces in his quest to earn a private pilot license.

"He's very knowledgeable . . . he knows all the details about flying," his mother said.

To become licensed, Nicely must log at least 40 hours of flight time with an instructor and in solo flights, according to Chris Dancy, spokesman for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Frederick, Md.

That's in addition to completing three hours of solo flying at night, a solo trek of 100 nautical miles, extensive written and oral exams, and a practical licensing test with a Federal Aviation Administration official, Dancy said.

"It takes a very focused young person to do this. It takes a tremendous amount of discipline because there's so much to learn," Dancy said. "You have to understand weather and federal air space regulations. There's a lot to it."

Nicely said he is confident he'll one day be landing fighter jets on aircraft carriers.

"Living so close to an airport, the idea of flying just kind of came to me. It's what I want to do," Nicely said.

The federal government requires people to be at least 17 to earn a private piloting license, Dancy said.

In 2008, 11,562 people ages 16 to 19 earned student pilot certifications nationwide, Dancy said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.