Learning to fly

HVHS junior takes first solo air flight

By Lesley Jenkins
Star staff
ljenkins@starhq.com

   Any pilot will tell you that one of their best memories about flying is their first solo flight. But not many pilots can brag that they got their driver's license and flew solo in the same year. However, that's exactly what Matthew Cloyd, a junior at Happy Valley High School, did Monday morning.
   At 10:30 a.m., Cloyd successfully performed three takeoffs and landings at Elizabethton Municipal Airport in a Cessna 172 Skyhawk.
   During 30 minutes of flying without an instructor, Cloyd said he thought, "I was just nervous and excited at the same time." He said you get pretty used to having someone in the right seat telling you what to do. "It's scary looking over and the passenger seat is empty," he added.
   Nervousness and excitement for a pilot are extreme, almost unimaginable feelings, according to Cloyd. There is even a ritual performed after every first solo flight - the cutting of the shirt tail. Instructors inspect a pilot's shirt tail for signs of bodily fluids that may have "leaked out" during a pilot's first takeoffs and landings.
   After the shirt cutting, Cloyd received gold wings and an official Federal Aviation Administration flight log book.
   Cloyd's mother, Loretta, said she spent the entirety of her son's flight praying that everything would go alright. "I was a nervous wreck," she said.
   During her son's first landing, Loretta Cloyd said she thought he was coming in too fast and would not be able to make the landing, but, when he did, she wasn't as worried about the rest of the flight.
   Cloyd learned to fly through an aerospace class offered at Unaka High School for the past three years. David Elrod, Certified Flight Instructor who teaches the class, said approximately 50 students have completed the class since its inception. He said weather, aerodynamics, Newton's Law, and weight and balance are some of the topics students study.
   A few students have continued their aerospace education in pursuit of a career in aviation.
   Elrod instructs high school students at a discounted rate of $10 per hour, while regular flight instruction rates are approximately $103 per hour. The discount requires that, for each instruction hour, the student must perform one hour of community service.
   Cloyd completed his community service at the Carter County Sheriff's Department, Carter County Rescue Squad, and at his church.
   Elrod said, "Some other students have to work hard to pick it (flying) up. But Matt is a good student; he gets good grades and flying comes natural to him."
   Cloyd has 30 hours of training left to receive his private pilot's license. "I am going to get my private pilot's license and then do a career in aerospace later on," said Cloyd.
   Cloyd is also a member of the HVHS honor society and an employee of Chick-Fil-A in Johnson City and has been selected by his employer to work the upcoming Peach Bowl game.
   He is the son of Loretta Cloyd, Elizabethton and Mark Cloyd, Jonesborough.