By Dyann Nashton
(Georgetown, Hamilton, NY) While many families are reluctant for their children to take flight and leave the nest, one Georgetown family actually encourages it … the flight part, that is. When teenager Isaac Babcock mentioned in passing his interest in learning to fly airplanes, his parents, Warren and Tara, agreed to go along for the ride.
At the age of 13, the Otselic Valley Junior-Senior High School student was with his father driving past the Hamilton Municipal Airport when he said, “Someday, I’d like to fly one of those little, tiny airplanes.”
There didn’t seem to be any begging, pleading or bargaining typical of a seemingly outrageous request from a child. On the return trip back, his father pulled in to the airport to investigate the possibility.
At that point, father and son were hooked.
“Now, it’s kind of addicting,” Isaac, currently in 10th grade, said.
The family now owns a 172 Cessna Skyhawk to further their interests in flight. Isaac took a couple of initial flight lessons in Cortland but, with the distance involved, looked more closely at the possibilities in Hamilton.
“Hamilton is where I really got started,” he said, noting that the shift to the local training program is when things got serious.
Two years later, at an age when most teenagers are more concerned with getting their driver’s licenses, Isaac was gearing up for his very first solo flight, which took place Oct. 19, of his 16th birthday.
He attributes his education in taking to the air to the training by Rick Bargabos of Eagle View Flight Training in Hamilton.
“Flying with Rick really prepares you,” Isaac said. “I really liked him as an instructor.”
Learning to fly is not known for being an inexpensive hobby. Isaac worked throughout the summer to help his grandparents put an addition on their garage to earn money for his flight lessons. By the end of the summer, he was pleased that he could pay for his lessons and help complete the garage project, including grounds work.
Isaac took lessons about twice a week during the summer and, now that school is in session, tries to get up in the air every weekend. To date, he says he has spent 20 hours up in air with Eagle View Flight Training. This included more than 86 takeoffs and landings, he said.
Prior to the solo, he said he also had to practice aerodynamic stalls, which requires idling the engine back and gliding. He added that the failed engine simulation means going through all the steps and processes of a potential emergency.
“You have to choose a field to land in and get yourself all configured to make the landing,” he said.
His solo flight required only three takeoffs and landings, he said, “and they all were pretty good.”
When asked about first-time jitters, he said, “It doesn’t really hit you until you’re on the runway and realize there is no instructor beside you. But once you get up in the air, the hard part is over. After the first one, the other two landings and takeoffs are easier.”
Isaac acknowledges the commitment that is required in taking to the skies.
“It definitely takes dedication and time,” Isaac said. “There are books, and you’ve got to study a lot of rules and regulations.”
Isaac is now gearing up to obtain his pilot’s license when he turns 17 next year. He will need another 20 hours in the air and will have to accomplish three cross-country flights of 53 miles from the airport each. At that point, he will be eligible to take the necessary written test. He will also be able to go on a check ride, which can be compared to a road test for new drivers.
Looking farther out on the horizon, Isaac hopes to join the U.S. Air Force and fly F16s and F18s. He said becoming a commercial pilot is not out of the question after that.
“You can’t just pull over like you would on the road and say I don’t want to fly,” Isaac said. “You have to make decisions right there and then. But once you’re there, everything goes away and you just focus.”
From the looks of things, this is not a young man who has trouble with focus.