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16-year-old makes solo flight

| Friday, May 4, 2012, 5:29 a.m.

As 16-year-old Jayson Krepps attempted to land a four-seat Cessna 172 at Rostraver Airport, he went through a mental checklist of procedures his flight instructors had gone over with him many times.

"I just didn't want to wreck the plane," Krepps admitted.

Krepps, a junior at Belle Vernon Area High School, is learning to fly at Aero Executive Services, a charter service and flight school at Rostraver Airport.

"Jayson has very good mechanical abilities," said Elaine Heston, owner and president of Aero Executive Services. "He has the passion and it shows very much."

The son of a flight attendant, Krepps has definitely been a frequent flyer. His mother, Donna Skirpan, of Carroll Township, has taken Krepps and his 18-year-old sister, Sarah, to many exciting locations including Bermuda and Paris.

He remembers one time taking a look around the cockpit and wishing that he would someday be a pilot.

Last summer, at the age of 15, Krepps began taking lessons at Rostraver Airport.

From the start, Heston noticed that Krepps was at ease in the cockpit. She explained that the goal of the initial lessons is to get a student comfortable in the cockpit. "We didn't have to do that with him," Heston said.

By the end of this summer, Krepps was ready for his first solo flight.

"I pretty much took off and I landed three times and there's a pattern you go in," Krepps said. "I was nervous."

On the ground during the half-hour flight were his mother, his sister, Heston and his flight instructor, Charlie Zollinger.

"I was nervous, but I had just flown with him to Latrobe one day," Skirpan said.

"His mother was so excited," Heston remembered. "You can see what a support mechanism she is."

Krepps said the flight went off without a hitch until he attempted to land the plane for the second time. "On the one landing the plane started bouncing," Krepps said. "I knew how to handle that."

Krepps got the plane under control by pulling back on the controls.

So far, Krepps has completed about 20 hours of flight time. He's hoping to obtain a private pilot's license when he's 17, which is the age one must be to obtain it. He hopes to go to college and become a pilot.

Heston said he is right on schedule for that. Even though she has students as young as 10, Heston said Krepps is at a good age to be where he is.

"A lot of people will call me and ask me what is the ideal age," Heston said. "I tell them 14 or 15 is a good age to start."

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