Caitlin Cobb, 17, stands beside the plane she trained and soloed in, a Cessna Skyhawk 172. (photos provided)
It's up, up, and away, for Crest senior Caitlin Cobb, who has her eyes set on the skies, so far as it comes to a career.
Caitlin, 17, the daughter of Leslie J. Cobb, President and CEO of United Way of Cleveland County, Inc., is a senior at Crest High School and is, according to her mom, in the process of getting her private pilot license.
Leslie noted on Dec. 17, 2020 Caitlin, who has a 4.3 GPA, flew her solo flight, and should have her 80 hours in and private pilot license by summer.
"She flies out of Shelby-Cleveland County Regional Airport and her instructor is Mr. Richard Fletcher," added Ms. Cobb. Leslie noted that Caitlin is a Cleveland County Schools student assigned to Crest High School but is completely online.
Said Leslie, "She has finished all of her high school courses and is now completing her Freshman and part of her Sophomore college courses.
"She will graduate in May from Crest and she will attend ATP (Airline Transport Pilot) Flight School in Concord, N.C., where she will train and obtain her Commercial Pilot License in five months. She will be flying a Piper Archer aircraft."
Part of Caitlin's training was the symbolic "cutting of the shirttail," said Leslie.
Known as "The Tail Tradition," she added, that "...traditionally, a student pilot's shirttail is removed upon completion of their first solo," adding it came about "...prior to the introduction of headsets and radio communication," when Ms. Cobb said, as she understands the history and tradition, "... instructors sat behind their student pilot in open-cockpit tandem aircraft."
"The lack of hearing equipment in an open-cockpit and tandem seating arrangement made communication between instructor and student challenging.
"According to aviation lore, the student's flight instructor would grab hold of and tug on the student's shirttail to get their attention and provide directions as necessary."
After successfully completing their first solo flight, the student's instructor then takes a pair of scissors and carefully cuts out a portion of the back of the student's shirt signifying the instructor's new confidence in their student; that they no longer require the instructor's hands-on assistance, as they once did.
Leslie noted that students can (and do) decorate their shirttail however they'd like. For her training and solo Caitlin did it in a Cessna Skyhawk 172.
To receive your private pilot's license Ms. Cobb said you must have 20 hours of flight time with your instructor and 20 hours of solo time.
"Caitlin, as of right now, has 41 hours and will probably have upwards of 80 hours by summer," she said, adding Caitlin's goal is to fly with a Commercial Airline (Delta, American, etc.) when she turns 21.
Some of classes Caitlin will take, Cobb noted, in order to qualify at that higher level of training include Pilot Certification through Commercial and Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI - Multi, Single, Instrument); Airline Transport Pilot Certification Training Program (ATP CTP); Advanced Training in Full-Motion Airbus or Boeing Simulator; Fast-Track, Total Immersion Flight Training; 100-plus Hour Multi-Engine Option Available; and Airline-Oriented Procedures and Experience.
Leslie said, "Caitlin has always been determined by setting her goals high and not stopping until she achieves them. I am very proud of her and all of her academic and athletic success. Most of her life she has been a competitor, not allowing any fears to get in the way.
"She did competitive gymnastics for eight years and competed all over the country. Now she has taken up flying to pursue a career in the Aviation industry as a Commercial Pilot."
Leslie noted Caitlin has an older sister Lexi, who is a junior at Spartanburg Methodist College, will graduate in 2022 with a Business Administration Degree.
Caitlin said, "Never settle for dreams that anyone can achieve. I have always lived by the motto: If your dreams don't scare you, they aren't big enough. Always go the extra mile whether you are comfortable with doing it or not."
She continued, "I want to thank Cleveland County Schools for allowing me to take my classes online and being transparent and supportive of me and my goals.
"Dr. Brian Hunnell was instrumental in setting everything up and making sure I had the classes I needed to graduate early through the dual enrollment program at Cleveland Community College.
"I also want to thank Mrs. Holly Robinson and Stephanie Mitchell from Crest High School who provided me with a top notch education while doing what I love."