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08/27/2008 - By by Gayle Davis
14-Year-Old Jeremy Wei
It’s not everyday you get the chance to sit down and speak with a 14-year-old pilot, but Living In Colts Neck did and found it quite intriguing. Jeremy Wei has a passion for one thing only – flying! He is fearless, confident and intelligent, and takes every opportunity he can to further learn the art, if you will, by participating in numerous flying courses all over the country in addition to taking flying lessons at Monmouth Executive Airport in Allaire, New Jersey.
Jeremy spent some time this summer just south of Phoenix, in Mesa, Arizona, where he learned upset recovery and aerobatic maneuvers that included: the Dutch Roll, Zoom, Aileron Roll, Loop, Hammerhead, Inverted Flight, Split 8, and the Cuban 8. F-18 fighter pilots were on hand to do the training with Jeremy one-on-one. While there he received the “Top Gun” award for air combat training on an Extra-300L. He will also learn helicopter flying, instrument training, and soaring on gliders during the year. On tap for next year’s list of goals…formation flying, multi-engine training, and commercial rating, as well as advanced aerobatics. Jeremy has already completed double the amount of necessary hours needed to take the test for the private pilot rating, but can’t do so until he is 17. The FAA requires a minimum of 40 hours, and the young daredevil already has 80 under his “wings”!
This young pilot also had the chance to visit the National Museum of the United States Air Force at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, and also spent a week in Wisconsin at the Oshkosh Air Venture during his summer break. It is here that aviation enthusiasts join together from near and far to experience all things aeronautics. From home-built airplanes, antiques, classics, warbirds, ultra-lights, and beyond, Jeremy and his dad got to see it all!
Coincidentally, the Colts Neck High freshman, lives at Shadow Isle, on the land once designated the grounds of the former Colts Neck Airport. It may have something to do with the “spirit of the land,” Jeremy’s dad George joked. George was in charge of maintaining the C-5 Galaxy for the United States Air Force, and has been flying since he was 16 years old. He adds, “Jeremy is training to be an aviator, not just an airline pilot.” Dad says, “It doesn’t go further without guidance and personal interest to have extensive knowledge and understanding of weather, human physiology (decompression chamber training), aircraft design and engineering, aircraft systems, upset training, advanced navigation, and aircraft flight performance. Becoming an aviator places much more interest and responsibility to get more advanced by studying the field, and by sharing and educating others to become better and safer pilots.”
Living in Colts Neck invites you to sit back and enjoy the ride with Jeremy Wei.
LICN: Where did you attend elementary and middle school?
JW: I attended elementary school at Conover Road Elementary School and Cedar Drive Middle School in Colts Neck.
LICN:And how old are you now?
JW: I am 14. I will be starting high school in the fall at Colts Neck High School.
LICN:So let’s just get into it. You have a passion for flying and you are only 14 years old. When did you become interested in flying and why?
JW: I became interested in flying when I was around 8 years old, when my dad took me up in his Bonanza. He has his own airplane. I just became addicted to flying. I had a passion for it, and eventually I started training. I started last summer. My dad basically surprised me. He brought me to the airport and said, “Do you want to go flying?” I said “Yes!”
LICN: And that was it?
JW: Yeah, pretty much. That’s where it started.
LICN:So you just mentioned that your dad enjoys the avocation as well. Tell me about some of his background and experiences, and how it influenced your interest in flying.
JW: Well, he was in the Air Force for many years, so he’s been an inspiration. I hope to [later on] have a career in aviation, maybe be an instructor…
LICN:What are some of the other things your dad does with flying?
JW: Now, he basically just flies for a hobby. He doesn’t have a career in aviation. We go up in the air every other weekend. We go to different places to eat breakfast, like Georgetown, Delaware, or Ocean City, Maryland.
LICN: That’s a cool way of getting to breakfast!
JW: Yeah, it is.
LICN: Now, is it legal to fly, being as young as you are?
JW: It’s legal to fly, but you have to have an instructor or rated pilot with you. At 16, you get your student pilot license, which means you can fly alone with the consent of your instructor, giving you a signed paper saying you can fly out of the airport. You have to plan out a trip with him before you actually take the plane out yourself. But at age 17 you get your actual pilot’s license to fly, your full privileges to fly wherever you want, whenever.
LICN: Describe the family airplane.
JW: It’s a Beechcraft Bonanza Aircraft; it’s a five-seater. But you don’t really want to take more than four people on it.
LICN: Why not?
JW: Because each passenger would have to be pretty light…or not that heavy. You don’t want to overload the aircraft, to stretch the weight and balance limits on it. You wouldn’t be able to take off from certain airports with smaller runways.
LICN: So, the airplane is weighed before you take off?
JW: You have to calculate the weight of it before you actually take off, because you don’t know how it will perform at different altitudes.
Can you walk us through all the steps from the moment you are on the tarmac until you are up in the air? What do you do to prepare?
JW: First, what you do is pre-flight the aircraft…make sure there is nothing loose – no screws or stabilizers – make sure nothing is out of the ordinary. You refuel the plane. You plan out the flight, get the weather information and other necessary things. You get into the cockpit and listen to the weather again, [and] enter all of your data in the cockpit. You want to make sure you have the right altimeter settings.
LICN: What is an altimeter setting?
JW: If you listen to the weather at that airport it gives you the altimeter setting. Once you enter it in, it helps to correct the different pressure levels since the pressure is different every day. Basically, if you were taking off from a 500-foot elevation at the airport and if it’s a different pressure, on a higher pressure day the altimeter is going to say that you are at a lower altitude, which you don’t want. So to correct for that you enter the altimeter setting, and that will tell you what real altitude you are at.
LICN: As a 14-year old, you are responsible for checking all of these things?
JW: Yes, but not the maintenance. You have to have a certified maintenance person.
LICN: And as far as checking what’s loose and so forth?
JW: I do that…the pilots do that.
LICN: Internally and externally?
JW: Yes, mostly externally.
LICN: So who actually trains you?
JW: My instructor.
LICN: Where do you take your lessons?
JW: At Monmouth Executive Airport. I don’t really take too much ground school there. I study my own books, but he teaches me most of the stuff when I’m up in the air flying.
LICN: Describe your first time flying…the first time you were in the cockpit.
JW: It was a great experience. I couldn’t even describe it. It’s so great! You just feel like you are in charge, you can go wherever you want. You get to actually feel how the plane performs. Just the feel of it is amazing.
LICN: You get a rush out of it, huh?
JW: Oh, yeah.
LICN: Have you ever experienced altitude sickness?
JW: No, not really…except maybe one time when my dad was flying (laughs).
LICN: How many hours do you need to get your pilots’ license?
JW: To obtain your pilots’ license, normally people would need around 40 hours. That is the FAA standard. I have over 80 hours, but I’m not old enough to get my license. I’m only 14 and need to be 17.
LICN: Are you the youngest at the Monmouth Executive Airport?
JW: No, I think there is an 11-year old there, or maybe even younger.
LICN: That’s unbelievable! Do you have any fears when you are up there?
JW: No. I’m not scared. But I can get nervous sometimes when time management is necessary, like when I have to take immediate action to avoid consequences – like a crash or collision. You just have to be sharp and know what you are doing.
LICN: So you are pretty confident in yourself?
LICN: Are you allowed to bring any of your friends or family up in the plane with you?
JW: I can when I’m training, as long as the instructor gives permission to do so. But once I am 17 I get my actual pilot’s license. That’s when I can bring people.
LICN: Will you fly alone, or do you feel better having somebody with you?
JW: Well, flying alone is where you get better practice so you know that you can perform by yourself. You know that you are confident. You know that if something happens you have to take immediate action. Flying with someone would make me more confident in certain situations, but…
LICN: So you haven’t flown alone yet?
JW: No, not yet.
LICN: Where do you “practice” when you are up in the air?
JW: I basically stay in the New Jersey area. Sometimes I head down to Lakewood or even more south to Wildwood. I have even flown up the Hudson River, over the Verrazano and George Washington Bridges, to the Orange County Airport in New York.
LICN: Is there any limit while you are training, as to how far you can go?
JW: No, there is no limit.
LICN: So what is the furthest place you have gone?
JW: I think it was Lancaster, Pennsylvania. But I’ve been further in my dad’s aircraft as a passenger.
LICN: Any tense moments when you and your dad are up in the air together?
JW: Yeah. There was one point where we encountered extreme weather and we didn’t expect it to become that bad. We were trying to get back to Monmouth Executive Airport from an airport in New Castle, Delaware, back in May. We couldn’t find any airport that was suitable for landing, because the cloud ceiling was too low. We were on an IFR (instrument flight rule) flight plan, and we couldn’t fly below the minimum weather conditions, which is for only 3 miles of visibility. We had like no visibility; we were diverted three times due to low-level fog. What we had to do was immediately find an airport because we were running out of fuel. We finally landed safely at Northeast Philadelphia at 10:30 pm. We flew in the clouds at night…that was a pretty stressing moment!
LICN: I can imagine! You also had the opportunity to take upset recovery and air combat training this summer in Arizona. Can you describe what you did there?
JW: I learned all kinds of maneuvers – loops, hammerheads. They also taught me what it’s like to be in a spin and how to avoid being in one, because of the quick loss of altitude.
LICN: Did you perform a spin?
JW: Yes, I did.
LICN: How many “G’s” did you experience?
JW: I pulled about four and a half “G’s.” But on the last day, I took a course called “Fighter Combat,” where my instructor taught me specific fighter combat strategies, and simulated what it’s like to be a fighter pilot. We went up in a formation flight, following a game plan, and basically played laser tag while flying – with the lasers that were attached to the wings of the aircraft! I pulled about six and a half “G’s!” I even won two out of the three rounds!
LICN: Did you get to try flying vertically or in an inverted position?
JW: Well, there are certain game plans we had to follow. We would come head on facing each other, and we had a choice of flying either one circle, two circle, or vertically. I flew one circle most of the time, flying away from the aircraft directly in front of me and meeting back again head on. I did get to fly vertically when our wings crossed, so that was one time I flew vertically. I flew straight up in the air and met the other plane back, side by side. They had television cameras on board the aircrafts so you could actually see yourself flying! There was one camera in the cockpit, one on the right wing, and one on the tail of the aircraft. It was really cool!
LICN: Oh wow! What was your most favorite experience there?
JW: The fighter combat was fun. I think this sort of training makes you a better pilot. I will never fly the same way again. I feel like I gained so much knowledge and experience with aeronautics during this training. I feel even more confident now than I already did.
LICN: I hear you have quite a setup in your bedroom…
JW: Yeah, I have a flight simulator, a yoke, rudder pedals, and engine controls. I use them to train. It’s actually helpful for me to practice; it simulates real flight conditions. It’s on a computer software package.
LICN: Are you part of any sort of aviation group or club?
JW: Yes, I am part of the Black Pilots of America Organization. It’s an organization of African Americans that share an aviation hobby. Other people are also welcome to join. I am also a member of AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association). It’s an online membership. I also belong to the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association).
LICN: What are your future aspirations with flying?
JW: I plan on being a part-time flight instructor and maybe taking a job in aviation with one of the major airlines for a while. Not for a long time, but I’d like to try it out to get the experience.
LICN: Do you have any other career goals?
JW: I plan on taking over my dad’s business. He’s an engineer…an entrepreneur. Whatever happens, I’m not exactly sure. I’m still young.
LICN: So you and your dad are pretty close, huh?
JW: Yeah, we are.
LICN: What is your favorite movie that involves airplanes?
JW: Top Gun is one of them.
LICN: Do you have any fears?
JW: Not really. I can get a little nervous at some points, like when you have to take immediate action to avoid any mishaps. But besides that, I’m not scared to fly.
LICN: What is the feeling that you have when you are in the cockpit?
JW: It feels great that I can actually take off and land the airplane by myself, without having my instructor having to help me do it…and that I can perform the necessary tasks to fly correctly. That feels great!
LICN: Do your peers in school think what you are doing is really cool? What is some of the feedback you are getting?
JW: Yes. Most of my friends are truly amazed that I am flying. A lot of people are.
LICN: Do you think it’s pretty cool?
JW: I think it’s out of the ordinary for someone my age to be flying.
LICN: You’re lucky that your dad happens to have an airplane…
JW: Yes. I’m extremely lucky!
LICN: It’s not an inexpensive hobby. Not everybody can do it, right?
JW: Yeah, that’s true.
LICN: When you aren’t up in the clouds, what else do you like to do?
JW: Although some people may not consider it a sport, I play paintball and just hang out with my friends. I like to go to the movies with my dad.
LICN: Do you get good grades?
JW: Yes, I do get good grades.
LICN: Do you like school?
JW: Yes. I think school is fun.
LICN: So what is your favorite subject?
JW: Probably math and science. Those are the most necessary subjects [that are] relevant to aviation and aeronautics.
LICN: What type of airplane would you like to own one day?
JW: A Gulfstream…or an Extra-300L Aircraft. Maybe someday, my dad will give me his aircraft!
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