PLANT CITY – Like many teenagers, Ryan Schultz wanted to drive as soon as he turned 16.
But a trip to the drivers license office had to wait. His first stop on the morning of his 16th birthday was Plant City Municipal Airport – so he could fly, alone.
“I’ve wanted to be a pilot for as long as I can remember,” said Ryan, who took a 10-minute flight without his instructor, David Krug.
Family members, including parents Lynn and Glenn, 19-year-old sister Ashlynn and grandparents Gerald and Dolores Schultz were on hand to watch Ryan take a plane into air by himself.
Glenn Schultz said he was nervous as his son prepared to take off; his wife of 20 years said she wasn’t scared because she knew he had more than a year of instruction.
Krug, who has taught flying lessons for more than three decades, said not many of his students solo the day they turn 16 – when they are old enough to legally fly without an instructor.
Krug and Ryan took off and landed twice before the instructor got out of the Cessna 152 and Ryan was left alone in the cockpit. Krug, who watched from the ground, said he was impressed the way Ryan handled the plane, from take-off to touch-down.
“He landed smoother by himself than he did when I was in the plane with him. And he did it with a crosswind,” he said.
Ryan, who will be a junior this month in the Florida Virtual School, logged about 20 hours of flying time under Krug’s supervision before taking his first flight alone.
The Ruskin teenager developed an interest in flying as a youngster when his paternal granddad put him in front of a flight simulator. He was hooked at 12 when he rode in a stunt plane, said Lynn, who is the county’s business development coordinator.
“From the moment when he went up in that stunt plane, his goal was to get his pilot’s license and fly for UPS,” she said.
After Ryan landed, his dad was beaming.
“How many people can say that they reach one of their dreams when they are just 16. It’s awesome. We’re all so proud,” said Glenn Schultz, who works in insurance.
His grandmother, who threw up on her first plane ride on her honeymoon 55 years ago, said she was happy Ryan flew solo at 16 but doesn’t want to be in the plane when he can legally take up passengers, when he turns 17.
“My religion is being a coward,” the Sun City Center resident said.
After he landed, the family celebrated in an airport office with a birthday cake with writing on the icing that read, “The Sky is the Limit.”
Ryan’s destination after his solo flight was a Tampa drivers license office. He passed the test, and drove his mom on the way home.
“It’s been a perfect day,” she said. “It couldn’t have been better.”