PITTSTON TWP. — Jordan Evans-Kaplan has wanted to fly an airplane for as long as he could climb into a cockpit, said his mom, Cara.
For her son’s 16th birthday, he got the gift of wings with his first solo flight.
Cara looked over the tarmac as her son taxied across the runway in his father’s Cessna single-prop plane Saturday at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport. Jordan flew in from Seamans Airport in Factoryville with his teacher, Seamans Chief Flight Instructor Randy Palmer, sitting in the passenger’s seat.
Palmer looked on proudly as Jordan ran out to greet his mom and hug his girlfriend, Meghan Lussier, who waited for him on the tarmac. He was about to spend his first moments alone in the air.
His father, Richard Evans-Kaplan, is an air traffic controller at the airport, but he wasn’t near the tarmac. Richard was positioned on top of the control tower, poised to videotape his son’s first solo flight.
For his birthday debut in the air, Jordan took a series of touch-and-go flights — short trips around the airport — to practice landing and taking off.
“It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever felt,” said Jordan. “I won’t lie. I ended up touching the right seat a few times just to tell myself I was really alone up there.”
A small jet approached the airport as Jordan was sailing in for a landing. The young pilot said, in order to get in ahead of the jet, he performed an advanced maneuver in which he had to run through all of his landing procedures at the same time to slow down the plane faster.
The Wyoming Area High School student said he never wavered. Instead of feeling nervous, he said only confidence helped him guide the plane in for a safe landing.
Palmer said Jordan is the ideal flight student. Though Pennsylvania law says he has to wait at least six months before he can drive a car, he’s been ready to fly for a while. Palmer said he likes to work his students gradually toward independence. Jordan is to practice soloing with exercises close to the airport a few more times and then ease into longer flights to new destinations.
“I always look for students who come prepared,” Palmer said. “It takes real discipline (to learn to fly).” Jordan’s got both of those things, Palmer said.
As part of his official training, said Jordan, he clocked about 20 hours in the air with Palmer — which clears him for solo flying. He must wait until he’s 17 for his official pilot’s license and he said there’s a lot more flying time involved. To fly commercially, he’d have to go to flight school — something he’s considering.
Jordan talked excitedly and said next on his list he wants to learn to fly aerobatics, or stunt planes, which brings even more freedom than flying in a straight line. He compared it to diving in deep open water versus swimming in a pool with tight racing lanes.