Just 14, Sask. stu­dent pi­lot among youngest to fly in Canada

Regina Leader-Post - - FRONT PAGE - THIA JAMES

Sara Striker has earned a dis­tinc­tion achieved by few peo­ple her age: she’s one of Canada’s youngest stu­dent pi­lots.

The 14-year-old, who at­tends high school in War­man, spent most of her sum­mer fly­ing, at­tain­ing her stu­dent pi­lot per­mit and tak­ing her first solo flight on Aug. 30 in a Cessna 150.

Striker caught the fly­ing bug early, watch­ing her fa­ther Ron work as a com­mer­cial bush pi­lot in the north.

He flew float planes for most of his ca­reer. At two years old, she’d sit by the con­trols in his plane as he flew. She re­calls an in­ci­dent when she was still quite young when she yanked at the con­trol col­umn, mak­ing her mom queasy.

By the time she was nine or 10, her fa­ther started to show her how to fly.

“I’ve been fo­cus­ing on fly­ing for a lot of my life,” she said.

She trained with Kris­ten Pen­ner at Mil­len­nium Avi­a­tion in Saska­toon for about a month over the sum­mer.

Pen­ner calls Striker an ex­cel­lent pi­lot with good judg­ment, not­ing she han­dled tough sit­u­a­tions — such as learn­ing how to spin well un­der a time crunch — re­ally well.

Striker said she finds fly­ing re­lax­ing and en­joys hav­ing Pen­ner as a flight com­pan­ion — they share laughs dur­ing flights. She finds landings to be the most chal­leng­ing and is work­ing on lev­el­ling off at the right time. Ac­cord­ing to Trans­port Canada, ap­prox­i­mately seven 14-year-olds hold stu­dent pi­lot per­mits in the air­plane cat­e­gory.

They aren’t fully li­censed and must be su­per­vised by a fully li­censed in­struc­tor.

To ap­ply for a recre­ational pi­lot per­mit, a per­son has to be at least 16; they must be at least 17 to ap­ply for a pri­vate pi­lot li­cence.

When Striker made her first solo flight, Pen­ner ob­served from the ground.

“At first, it was nerve-rack­ing for me,” Striker said. “But once the wheels got off the ground, I just thought, ‘I’ll just fly the plane.’ So I flew the plane and ev­ery­thing went all right.”

Pen­ner said she had a mo­ment on the Mon­day be­fore Striker’s solo flight when she was stressed about it.

“It’s just that she was so young. Her pi­lot­ing skills were ex­cel­lent, her judg­ment was ex­cel­lent. I wasn’t wor­ried about her oth­er­wise.

“If she had been 21 years old, I’d have no prob­lems with it. It’s just that she’s 14 — you want to put her in a bub­ble, pro­tect her.”

Striker is the youngest stu­dent Pen­ner has trained.

She plans to con­tinue fly­ing a cou­ple times a month through­out the school year. Striker said she en­vi­sions a ca­reer as a pi­lot — first start­ing with float planes up North, and then mov­ing on to com­mer­cial air­lin­ers.

LIAM RICHARDS

Sara Striker is one of the youngest stu­dent pi­lots in Canada.

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