VIDEO: 17-year-old pilot

VIDEO: 17-year-old pilot

Romario Burrell gets credentials after 37 days of training

BY NADINE WILSON Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

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HE is not yet old enough to acquire a driver's licence, but 17-year-old Romario Burrell on Monday became a certified personal pilot after just 37 days of training at the Caribbean Aviation Training Centre (CATC).

In addition to impressing his flight instructors with his theoretical knowledge of a plane, he was also able to score 149 out of a possible 150 for his practical test, which instructors said was a first for a Jamaican in his age group.

In order to secure his certification, the youngster had to do a series of short and soft field landing routines at the Tinson Pen Aerodrome in Kingston on Monday, before flying to Vernamfield in Clarendon. In total, he did 90 minutes worth of flying before coming back into Kingston to finish up his assessment and receive his certification.

"I feel elated; it's like after you have completed a marathon, it's very hard doing it and you feel that sometimes you can't manage the pressure, but when you come out of it, you feel amazing and so that's how I feel now," said Burrell, shortly after disembarking from the small aircraft at the aerodrome.

A private pilot's licence would have normally taken about six months of instruction, but Burrell said he did not have so much time to spare.

"I have been planning to do this for a long time, but it just so happened that this was the only time that I had available because I am going to college at the Vanderbilt University in another few weeks," he said.

Chief executive officer and director of operations for the CATC Captain Errol Stewart was among those who greeted and congratulated the youngster after his return flight.

"He started flying on the 6th of July and today -- take out some of the weekends -- he is doing his final private pilot practical test which is a record," said Captain Stewart, a former Jamaica Defence Force officer.

"With a kid with that potential, the aviation industry would grasp him up, because their retention level is good and from where we are going technologically, they tend to take these kids and move them to that of an astronaut, once they have the technical background and support," he added.

But even more elated was the youngster's father -- well-known sports administrator and businessman Captain Horace Burrell. He was amongst the first on the scene to congratulate his son on landing, and is now hoping that he will be able to co-pilot the aircraft that will transport him occasionally from the United States where he is studying.

"Flying is one of my passions and it is something that certainly, I have always felt that my sons should do. I was particularly happy and pleased when Romario decided that in addition to doing his schoolwork, [he would] take on flying very seriously," said Captain Burrell, who operates an aviation business.

He said his son had developed a love for aircraft from an early age and this passion was further ignited when he started travelling in his private helicopters.

"If you ever go into his bedroom, you would think you are in the cockpit of a large aircraft, because he has his simulator set up and that is what he does during his spare time. To see him acquire his private pilot's licence in this record time is truly a great feeling for a father, so I am very, very satisfied with where he is at and the possibilities are endless," Captain Burrell said.

Romario was expected to return to the United States on Monday to finalise plans to pursue his degree in political science, but although his area of studies has taken a different course from what most would have expected, he still plans to follow a career that allows him to fly.

"I am addicted to airspace, so you don't know what is going to come. But it's definitely going to be something to do with flight in the future; whether it's helping people by becoming a relief pilot or something like that, or using my degree in political science to add to my flying experience and the love of aviation, but we'll see," he said.

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