The sky’s the limit for 16-year-old Heber Airport pilot Tyler Phillips

HEBER CITY, Utah — Tyler Phillips is ready, has been willing, and is now able to get his pilot’s license. There’s just one delay; the 16-year-old must wait six months until his 17th birthday to make it official.

After school and on weekends, Phillips uses his driver’s license to go from Wasatch High School to the Heber Airport Flight School to train for his pilot’s license. While in the Boy Scouts, he had the opportunity to be a passenger on a flight in a small private plane, working towards a merit badge. He got out of that plane and said, “I’m gonna be a pilot!”

Fast forward about a decade, and not only has he been through a Junior Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) program, but he also currently volunteers with the National Angel Flight nonprofit organization.

Phillips has already gotten his Solo Flight Endorsement, meaning he passed the exam to now be allowed to fly by himself. He’s logging lots of hours flying solo. It helps that he already has his own plane, earning a chunk of the money for it by working at the Utah Olympic Park. It’s a used 1966 Cessna 150 with 100 horsepower, which flies “slow and low.” It only burns five gallons of fuel per hour and has about a six-hour range. Its flight ceiling limit of 12,500 ft., and the cost was roughly comparable to a medium-sized car.

“He’s been confident his whole life. Even though he does scary things like nordic ski jumping in Park City and flying a plane, he’s always been very, very cautious, and I know that’s just part of who he is,” said Kristi, Tyler’s mom. “When we go on family hikes, he’ll see a sign that says trail closed, avalanche area, or rock slide section, and we’ll be like, ‘Oh, we’ll be fine, we can just go through.’ Then Tyler will say, with authority, ‘no, no, no.’”

“It shows that he understands the laws of nature, like, the plane will have lift if I’m doing all of these things and monitor the airspeed, it’s not going to fall out of the sky if all of these procedures are in place and checked and double checked. That’s just his thorough comprehension of, and respect for, the laws of nature.”

When he is allowed to have passengers in six months, Kristi and his Dad, Scott, will likely be the first. Until then, Scott utilizes his pilot’s license, and Tyler is the co-pilot to places like Colorado, Montana, Nevada, and also to California to visit Scott’s Dad, Tyler’s proud grandpa.

“Flying, simply is freedom, and so, so different from anything else. You just feel just like a bird, I guess it’s like, almost out of this world,” Tyler said. “And it’s nice and interesting to sort of getaway … to be able to look down on everything for a minute and put things into perspective. On the ground, you might have school stress or whatever, but the second you’re flying over the school or your house or your town, it sort of takes any bad situations out and puts the fun into life. I enjoy every minute of it all.”

He’s shooting for the stars with career goals, including attending the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO, to learn to fly an F16. But his head’s not in the clouds as he explains that the aviation industry has many career paths, and as such, he’s keeping his options open, “For Sure.”


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