On another plane
When Kreg Anderson wanted to learn to fly, Don Clobes took him under his wing.
Under Clobes' tutelage, Anderson accomplished a rare feat - the 16-year-old got his driver's license and his pilot's license on the same day.
"Most kids are excited about getting their driver's license," said Anderson, the son of Tom and Angie Anderson of Alexandria. "My driver's license was minimal. This was the highlight of my month, maybe my year. It was just a great feeling."
On April 27, the day after his 16th birthday, Anderson soared high in the sky above Alexandria, but this time he was in the driver's seat. It was the culmination of a lifelong love of aviation, as he has been "fascinated" with airplanes and airports as long as he can remember.
"I've been coming out to the airport [Chandler Field in Alexandria] since I was 3 or 4, begging my parents to drive me out here to see what's going on," said Anderson, a freshman at Discovery Middle School in Alexandria.
Another frequent fixture at the airport is Don Clobes, a retired Northwest Airlines pilot and flight instructor for Alexandria Aviation. The novice and his mentor connected through their love of aviation.
"We always knew the Anderson kid," Clobes said indulgently. "You don't find many people with that fascination who love to be at the airport and love airplanes."
As he got older, Anderson rode his bike to the airport almost every day, spending hours observing and soaking up as much knowledge as he could. Around age 10, he decided that he was going to get his pilot's license - and he wanted to do it at the same time he got his driver's license. Clobes never had any doubt this young man with such a passion for flying would accomplish his goal.
Last June, after buying the textbooks and "doing some reading," Anderson had his first flying lesson with Clobes.
"It was pretty cool," Anderson said. "I've been coming out here for years, watching people take off and land. Finally I got a chance to do that from the left seat. To be able to do it myself, I saw everything from a different perspective."
Over the next few months, the eager pupil completed the required 40 hours of flight training and a written exam.
"Kreg is a true student," Clobes said, inciting a humble smile from Anderson. "He pursues knowledge and is very attentive and receptive to instruction. He's very focused."
That hard work and tenacity paid off, when, a few hours after passing his driver's test, Anderson was behind the controls of an airplane to take his flying test. It's an hour he'll never forget.
He and Clobes spent some time in the airplane together on the picture-perfect sunny day and double-checked all the instruments. Then Clobes got out of the plane. Anderson sped down the runway and finally did what he had been waiting to do for years - he took off for the sky, alone.
"It felt incredible!" the teen said. "I wasn't nervous at all. I was totally confident. After all these years watching people fly around I was able to do it myself."
"It was excellent. Picture perfect. Absolutely picture perfect," the proud teacher said of his pupil's first flight.
Anderson passed the test with flying colors.
"It feels awesome," he said of getting his second license in one day. "I don't know quite how to explain it."
But he credits his teacher and mentor for helping him achieve his goal.
"He really helped me believe I would be able to do it and encouraged me," Anderson stressed. "He is a really great guy. He always had confidence in me."
Upon passing the test, Anderson earned his student pilot certificate, which enables him to fly solo with some limitations - such as having an instructor on site, allowing for weather conditions and not being able to have a passenger in the airplane. At 17, he can earn his private pilot certificate, at which point he is permitted to take passengers, but not for compensation.
It's a goal Anderson already sees on the horizon. He wants that license as "close to his birthday as possible."
Anderson's love of aviation isn't restricted just to flying. Over the years, the teen has taken more than 1,700 photographs of airplanes, which he posts on his own website, www.kregaxn.webs.com.
"It's another little hobby of mine," he said with a grin.
Anderson has no doubt that his little hobbies will someday turn into a career.
"I'm 100 percent sure it will be something to do with aviation," he said of his future.
In college, he plans to major in aviation management with the goal of becoming an airport manager. He also wants to own his own plane and be a pilot as a hobby.
And maybe someday, like Clobes before him, he can take a youngster under his own wing and help his passion for flight take off.