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16-year-old takes first solo flight Sunday

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Usually when kids dream about celebrating the year they turn 16, they imagine a brand new car or a huge party.

But student pilot Graham Cargle was focused on completing his first solo flight at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport.

Cargle, who turned 16 on Feb. 19, has been ready to conquer this venture for weeks, but the weather hasn’t been optimal for a student on his first solo flight until this weekend. On Sunday, Cargle was finally able to soar miles above the ground and embrace the sky all on his own. It was an indescribable experience, he said.

“It was incredible; it’s a feeling like no other,” Graham said, elated from his three morning solo flights. “I would do it again first thing tomorrow if I could.”

Graham said when he was learning throughout the last three years, he didn’t really understand how much all his training would help him in the moment, but all of his flight instructions paid off.

“During my first takeoff, I was a little nervous, but once I was in the air, it ran like clockwork,” he said.

“It was so exciting,” his mother, Angel Cargle, said, adding that all the rescheduling they had to do over the last two weeks made everyone anxious. “I am so proud for him.”

“I was on an adrenaline high until like 1 o’clock this afternoon,” he said, laughing.

Cargle has been learning how to fly since he was 13, and said his parents originally pitched the idea to his brother, not him.

“It’s funny how it came about, said Graham. “My brother is three years older than I am, and my mom said to him one day, ‘Hey Brady, I saw where they give flying lessons at the airport, is that something you’d be interested in?’ He said no, but I said, ‘Hey mom, that’s something I would be interested in!’”

“Both of our boys have always had adventurous spirits,” said Angel Cargle. “We have encouraged them to be different and think outside of the box, so we embraced the idea.”

She said three years ago the Cargles found his instructor, Fred Barasoain, with Freedom Flight.

“He let Graham be ‘hands on’ in the air on the first lesson and he was immediately hooked,” said Angel Cargle.

“My instructor and I will discuss a flight topic and it may take us 15 minutes or it may take an hour to discuss it. But when he’s done going over it with me, we go up and work on it,” Graham said, adding that he also gets a lot of resources from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Graham’s parents will fly with him, and Angel said it’s an exciting experience that strengthens the family’s faith.

“It reinforces our belief that our possibilities in life truly are endless,” she said. “When we fly with him, we realize that God created a vast universe, yet He allows us to be a small part of something special right where we are.”

As a sophomore at Unity Christian School, Graham definitely wants to fly for fun throughout his life, but may do commercial flights in the future.

“I’ve thought about doing a lot of things with it,” he said. “I want to go into pediatric surgery one day, but I’ve thought about flying in college and making some extra money flying people places. But I want to do it as a leisure activity.”

He did add, however, that his airborne hobby makes for some interesting differences between himself and his peers.

“Sometimes people give me a strange look when I tell them I’m a student pilot,” he said. “You know, a friend of mine will talk about going to play basketball over the weekend, and I’ll say ‘Cool, I’m flying this weekend.’”