August 22, 2008
Fly Boy 10-Year-Old From Studio City, With 23 Hours in the Air, is Among the Youngest Pilots in the Nation
By DANA BARTHOLOMEW, STAFF WRITER PHOTOS BY MICHAEL OWEN BAKER, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
VAN NUYS - Few would brave the 405 Freeway with a gap-toothed kid behind the wheel.
Yet 10-year-old Charlie Goldfarb flew a Piper Warrior over the car- choked commuter slab Wednesday with the pluck of a precision ace.
"Don't worry. I've been doing this for four weeks. I know what I'm doing," Charlie declared before banking the plane over the Santa Monica Mountains with his
Hollywood Aviators flight trainer at his side.
The Studio City boy, with 23 hours in the air, is among the youngest pilots in the nation, according to pilot organizations and flight instructors.
Though he can't legally drive, he can pilot a 180-horsepower aircraft out of the nation's busiest general aviation airport -- as long as his flight instructor is with him.
He's also one of the sharpest eagles in the clouds, his instructors said.
"I've seen 9-, 12- and 14-year-old pilots," instructor Khalid Hassan said. "But compared to this guy, they're like doorknobs."
Two months ago, Charlie's dad approached Hollywood Aviators at Van Nuys Airport about flight school for his kid.
Charlie's mom, who lives in London, had seemed to go along with the plan. Until told of the boy's first flight.
"She said, 'Are you crazy? You let him fly a plane? I thought it would be a flight simulator,'" said Mark Goldfarb, 44, of Studio City, who has custody of his son during the summer.
"I was thinking of something interesting for him to do, he's got an aptitude for high science; he loves aircraft. ... I don't believe in parents who want to protect their kids from all risks."
Before his 17th flight Wednesday out of Van Nuys Airport, Charlie inspected the single-engine plane as if he'd punched its every rivet. Fuel color, check. Oil level, check. Lingo for the tail flap and trim, check.
"This is a stabilator, different than the stabilizer," he said. "You see that brown plane over there, a Skyhawk, it's got a stabilizer. Here, the entire thing moves."
Before long, Charlie's in command in the left-hand seat, running through its instrument check. In minutes, he's taxiing down Bravo on a path toward runway One-Six-Right.
"Good morning, Van Nuys tower ... request takeoff from One-Six- Right with information hotel," says Charlie over the whirring prop.
With a rush, he's down the runway and airborne over Encino on a course toward Camarillo, flying 80 knots over the mansions above Malibu.
Butterflies? He's never felt them, he said. Fear? Never experienced it. He's not had a white knuckle at the pilot's yoke.
"Of course I'm excited, every time I do this," said Charlie, who with jade-green eyes scans the distance between thick coastal clouds and the valley where he'd performed steep turns and stalls.
"Let's go over Simi Valley," he said. "We'll get a nice view of fields and stuff."
It was in 1993 that an 11-year-old girl flew a Cessna coast to coast. The next year, the record was broken by a 9-year-old girl.
But Congress banned such record-breaking attempts by unlicensed pilots in 1996 when a 7-year-old, her father and her flight supervisor were killed during a cross-country flight.
Though the number of preteen pilots is unknown, there were 219 certified student pilots in 2003 ages 14 and 15, according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the world's largest pilot group.
It'll be six years until Charlie can go solo and seven before he can obtain his license at 17.
"That young is fairly rare," AOPA spokesman Chris Dancy said of Charlie's aviation exploits. "But there is nothing in FAA regulations that prevents that.
"If a person is large enough to manipulate the controls, that person can fly with a flight instructor."
When not behind the propeller, Charlie plays with his flight simulators, his backyard train set and friends.
After a perfect touch-and-go landing in Camarillo, Charlie points the plane toward home.
Bucking a crosswind over Van Nuys Airport, he trims the flaps, cuts the power and aims the Warrior gently down the runway.
His landing is baby soft.
"Good morning, Van Nuys ground," he announces to the FAA tower with the radio voice of a veteran. "Taxi to Hollywood."
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