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Young pilot talks about his lifelong love of aviation

February 22, 2013|By EVAN TORRES | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • Michael DiMercurio of Hagerstown took his first flying lesson when he was 9. He said he plans on a career in computer engineering, but might consider being a professional pilot, too.
By Bekah Wolf/Pulse photographer

While most 18-year-olds only experience flying through video games, Michael DiMercurio of Hagerstown experiences it first hand.

DiMercurio said he loves to fly his Piper Archer. He took his first flight lesson at age 9. At age 16, he piloted his first solo flight.

The St. Maria Goretti senior met the Pulse teen journalism group at his hangar at Hagerstown Regional Airport to talk about why he loves flying.



Pulse: What made you want to start flying?

DiMercurio: Ever since I was little I had this innate love for airplanes. When I was born, I was always into machinery and anything that moved, and airplanes just happened to be on the list. But the biggest reason that I wanted to fly was because there's this thing I get when I fly — it's like a feeling that I don't get anywhere else. It's like being free. I guess that's my favorite part.



How old were you when you first took flying lessons?

My first flight lesson was when I was 9 years old. I got to take off with an instructor in the right seat and then fly around Hagerstown for a while, that was pretty cool. I had to sit on two phone books and two cushions just so I could see over the dashboard.



How scared was the flight instructor when he saw that he was flying with a 9 year old?

The flight instructor was not that scared, but my dad was freaking out. He was in the back seat and — let's just say that I made it a little too bumpy for his comfort.



How old were you on your first solo flight?

My first solo flight, it was the day after I turned 16, and the legal age for you to be able to fly solo is exactly 16. So I was just one day off the mark.



So what's it like to be flying solo?

It's really cool; it's probably the coolest thing ever. You're just flying over all these cars that look really miniature and you're just like, "Hey! I'm flying an airplane, nothing new."



Can you describe your first solo flight?

My first solo flight, I had to be with my instructor for three takeoffs and landings, and then I would pull back into the airport and she would get out. The feeling of no one being in the right seat was a pretty cool feeling. Then I taxied out to the runway, took off, did three takeoffs and landings by myself. Which is really cool when you're climbing up, flying the plane, then you look over and it's just you in the plane. I think that's a really cool feeling.



How many hours do you have to log in to get your license?

You have to log in 40 hours of flight time, and currently I have 65.



Can you explain the difference between the types of pilot's licenses?

Right now I have a private pilots license, which allows me to fly so long as the weather's clear and I can see for good visibility. The next license I plan on pursuing is the Instrument rating, where it's about another 40 hours of flight training. And then when I get that license it will allow me to fly in conditions that might not be perfect. Like when it's foggy, cloudy, and I can fly where you can't see anything out of the windows, using instruments to navigate.



When you're doing it by visibility, what are you looking for?

Visibility just means how far you can see a certain distance. When you're in the air, you can only see so far and then it all fogs out. So on a normal day, it's typically 10 or more miles, but some days it can be as low as three or two. So when you're flying, it's like you can see about that far and then you can't see anything else. If you end up going higher, say around two miles up, you wouldn't be able to see the ground. So there are restrictions on what kind of weather, fog and visibility you can fly in.



Do you plan on flying professionally for the rest of your life?

I've thought about flying professionally. If I did, I think I would take it up later in life, but for the first bit, I think I want to enjoy flying for fun. I do want to go into computer engineering as a career, and then possibly afterward look into flying as a career.



How expensive of a hobby is this?

This is not your typical hobby, just a couple figures. An hour of renting this aircraft is $112 just for the hour. That's not including fuel, or any other fees that you have to pay. Fuel for this aircraft runs at around $6 a gallon and it burns about 10 gallons per hour at full throttle.



What kind of dedication does it take to be a pilot?

To be a pilot for fun, you have to keep up with your proficiency. Every 90 days you have to fly at least once, otherwise you have to go through more lessons again. When you're a commercial pilot, there's a whole bunch of different (rules) you have to follow. It's the company's decision how often you fly. I would think that most airline pilots probably fly around 17 to 18 days out of the month, and then the rest of those days they get off.



Evan Torres is a sophomore at Williamsport High School. He is a member of Pulse, a teen journalism program with The Herald-Mail.

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