WEYERS CAVE, Va. - Wednesday evening might mark the only time Samuel Price ever steps out of a plane to applause.
After landing a blue-and-white Cessna 172 Skyhawk, Price climbed out of the cockpit to see a crowd of about 20 extended family members, including his three sisters and mother, Rebecca.
It was his first solo flight, on the first day he could legally take it: his 16th birthday. By law, he still can't drive a car alone.
But, effective Wednesday, he can fly an airplane by himself.
"He learned his left from his right in an airplane," his father, Michael Price, explained as he watched his son breeze through three flights above the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport.
Traditionally, a pilot on his first solo flight takes off and lands three separate times, Michael Price said.
"See his attitude?" the father asked those watching as he analyzed his son's third and final landing, oozing with pride. "He's got that nose- down attitude right there."
Michael Price, a commercial pilot for United Airlines since 1988, has been teaching Samuel to fly for as long as either of them can remember.
While Samuel Price, a sophomore at East Rockingham High School, isn't sure whether he wants to follow his father into the commercial realm, he's gotten off to a good start.
The teen already has clocked about 40 hours in the passenger seat. His father and flight instructor signed off on his student pilot certificate Wednesday, and he's on track to earn his private pilot license at 17 and a commercial pilot license, if he wants it, at 18, according to Federal Aviation Administration rules.
He plans to enroll in the Aviation Maintenance Training School through Blue Ridge Community College next year.
Price will be as good as set to get a job with both a commercial pilot and an airframe and powerplant license, his father said.
But he isn't worried about all that just yet.
"I just couldn't wait to get off the ground," he said, beaming while opening presents after his flight Wednesday.
His gifts included a LEGO airplane and a framed poster displaying the poem "High Flight" by John Gillespie Magee Jr. His T-shirt, which his father cut the tail off of post-flight _ as is tradition _ quoted the same poem.
But his most memorable 16th birthday present might be the smallest: his father's first United wings.
The Daily News-Record is published in Harrisonburg, Va.
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