FIRST IN FLIGHT:Meeks passes with flying colors
Published 3:00 am Saturday, April 2, 2016
Colton Meeks has grown up in the air.
That being so, he has 17 years of flying time.
“Just about,” Meeks said, with a smile. “I have grown up in a plane.”
Meeks’ dad, Wesley Meeks, is a professional pilot and owns a Beechcraft Bonanza. His granddad, Larry Meeks, is a pilot and owns a Varga Kachina, a military-style plane that he pilots for business and pleasure.
Colton can’t remember a time when he wasn’t airborne.
He, laughingly, said he wasn’t born on a plane “but close.”
“I guess I’ve been flying since I was about two years old,” Colton said. “My mom likes flying and my sister, too, so we fly a lot as a family.”
Colton said he’s not sure if his love of flying comes from inherited genes or from an environmental influence or maybe both.
“But, I guess I’ve always known that I want to fly,” he said. “I want to be a pilot. I’ve always known that.”
Being from a flying family, Colton also knew the sky was the limit for him and that he would have the support he needed to make his dream come true.
He was as comfortable in a plane as he was in his old sneakers but comfort wouldn’t get him where he wanted to go. He had to have a piece of paper giving him the license to fly.
The first step was to get the required professional training. Colton signed up for pilot training at Troy Aviation and he was on his way to the career of his dreams.
“I could not have had a better pilot to train with than Justin Ewert,” he said. “He’s a great teacher and a great pilot. He was confident in what I could do and that gave me the confidence that I needed when it came time for me to solo.”
But there was classroom work to master and many nights of burning the midnight oil in preparation for the written exam in October 2015.
“There’s a lot more to flying than you might think,” Colton said. “There’s so much to learn and so much to know to operate a plane and be safe in the air.”
Most of Colton’s flight training came in his dad’s Bonanza.
“It’s more complex to operate than the Varga Kachina and it has more horsepower, about 100 more,” he said. “I would fly three or four days a week. I loved learning about flying and I loved flying.”
When Ewert was confident that Colton was ready, he simply said, “Go solo.”
“He was confident that I was ready and I knew that I was but I was still a little nervous,” Colton said. “But, when I got up in the air, all the nervousness went away. I can’t explain it but it was a great feeling.”
He flew a traffic pattern and that was what he needed to do to solo. He was then ready for the “real stuff.”
“I made destination flights, night flights and then cross-country flights,” Colton said. “I flew from Troy to Selma to Alexander City and back to Troy. It took about an hour and 45-minutes.
“Then I flew from Troy to Orlando to Valdosta and back. When I’m flying it’s such a big release. I’m in a zone. I’m focused. I get in the moment and there is nothing like it.”
With 40-plus hours of flying time logged, Colton decided he was ready to get his pilot license.
“What I was most worried about was the oral exam,” he said. “You are questioned for a couple of hours by a certified examiner and he can ask you anything about the plane or flying. I didn’t sleep for four days while I was studying for the exam. I had studied for several hours a day for four weeks but I wanted to make sure I would pass.”
Colton passed with flying colors and then climbed into his granddad’s Varga Kachina for the flight of his young life.
“I was nervous at first because I knew I had to do everything right,” Colton said. “But, when I got in the air, I just relied on everything I had been taught. I relaxed and enjoyed the flight.”
Colton passed his oral and flight exams on March 24. He now has a private pilot’s license and can fly single-engine planes. And his dream continues.
“I want to go the distance. I want to be a commercial pilot,” he said. “It will take several years and a lot time in the air but that’s my goal. That’s my dream.”
Colton’s plans could include enrollment at Troy University or perhaps a spot on the Junior Pro Men Wakeboard Tour.
Colton began competing in wakeboard tournaments about five years ago. He is a hard-core wake boarder who loves riding the waves but that doesn’t begin to compare with flying high in the sky.
“I guess I’m an adventurer,” he said. “I love wakeboarding but the greatest adventure is in the sky.”