Fast flier

Sixteen-year-old earns student pilot license, goes solo

K.I. SAWYER — Sixteen-year-old Truman Durand of Harvey didn’t waste much time taking a solo airplane flight upon earning his student pilot license.

The Marquette Senior High School sophomore flew a Cessna 150J solo on Aug. 13 — the very first day he was allowed such an undertaking.

Considering his background, that’s understandable since his father, Greg, has lots of flying experience.

“I’ve been flying pretty much all my life, with my dad being in the Air Force and him being a pilot,” Truman said.

In fact, he was a “right seat” pilot alongside his father since he was around 8 or 9 years old.

Now Truman’s a “left seat” pilot, although he hopes to obtain his full pilot’s license when he turns 17.

Getting a student pilot license isn’t the same as getting a learner’s permit to drive a car.

“You have to be able to handle the aircraft, know what to do in emergencies,” Truman said. “You have to have enough hours to where you’re comfortable and do everything pretty much by yourself, and if something were to happen, you knew what to do.”

Now he can fly in the air and drive on the ground, although there wasn’t much of a time lapse between the two skills, having just recently gotten his driving permit.

Truman considers flying the easier of the two.

“Driving, there’s just so much stuff that can go on and everything’s happening so quickly. But in the air, I mean, stuff can go bad quickly if you’re not paying attention, but I’ve just found it’s, like, a lot more relaxing,” Truman said.

In fact, he called flying “a calming experience.”

“Once you’re doing everything and you’re focused, everything just goes by really smoothly,” Truman said.

To him, it’s also cathartic.

“If you have a bad day, it’s good to go flying,” Truman said. “It’s pretty nice to be up there.”

His most recent instructor, Jake Van Effen, started working with him in April.

“He’s a pretty quick learner,” said Van Effen, who told his protege that a good goal for him would be to get in a solo flight by his 16th birthday.

The weather cooperated on Aug. 13, but a lot had to be accomplished before the big day.

“He needs to fly the plane safely and confidently,” Van Effen said. “I need to be confident in him. There’s a lot of basic flight maneuvers that he has to go through. Especially, takeoff and landings are huge.

“But emergency procedures, if that airplane were to decide to quit on him, he needs to know how to get that airplane down safely.”

Van Effen probably won’t spend a lot of time worrying in that regard, calling Truman’s skills “amazing.”

The Cessna 150J he used for his flight, Truman noted, was purchased by the Marquette County Flying Club.

With that plane, Truman flew out of Sawyer, performing just takeoffs and landings for about 30 minutes.

“It was good,” Truman said. “It was a lot different than I was expecting.”

However, he’s flown solo since then, and is comfortable with being in the cockpit alone.

His future plans include flying longer distances, of course, and then visiting Japan — his place of birth — by joining the Air Force.

His father, Greg, acknowledged the love of flying is in the family, although he got a later start.

“I didn’t fly until I left to go to the military,” Greg said. “It was my first flight in an airplane at (age) 21.”

Before he retired, though, he earned a private pilot’s license.

So what does he think of his son taking to the air by himself in such a quick fashion?

“It’s an accomplishment,” Greg said. “I don’t think he realizes the full impact of it right now, but maybe 10, 15 years from now when he’s sitting in the cockpit of a (Boeing) 767 — man, you know, what a ride.”

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is