Boca high schooler pilots own birthday flight 

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By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor

Andy Traficante wanted to fly for his 16th birthday— and not on a commercial flight, but in a plane he was piloting himself.

His wish came true thanks to his participation in a dual-enrollment program with his Saint Andrew’s High School and Lynn University’s College of Aeronautics.

Now, a junior, Traficante enrolled in the program with Lynn when he was 15 and a half. To take a solo flight, which he did on his 16th birthday, you have to be 16-years-old and pass multiple tests.

“It was a great experience,” he said. “It’s something I will never forget.”

He also said it almost didn’t happen due to the weather.

“It was pretty crazy honestly,” he said, adding his instructor was so determined to make his birthday wish come true that they waited out the weather to make the flight possible.

To prepare for the solo flight, Traficante took lessons twice a week for several months at the Boca Raton Airport.

“It’s a huge accomplishment to make it on a solo flight at 16,” flight instructor for the College of Aeronautics Lance Blank said.

Blank called his student one of the most dedicated people he knows.

“He is always prepared,” Blank said. “There are days he could teach us. He loves learning and it makes it so enjoyable to teach him as an instructor.”

Jeff Johnson, the Dean of the College of Aeronautics, said the only other person he knows who flew solo on their 16th birthday is himself.

“It’s really something that is extremely rare,” Johnson said. “He’s a gifted, young man.”

Traficante said first became interested in flying after he took a ride in a hot air balloon when he was 8.

He said he will spend the next year working on obtaining his private pilot license, which he can’t receive until he is 17.

Since the solo flight, other students at Saint Andrew’s have expressed interest in flying. High schoolers aren’t the only ones learning how to take flight. College students at Lynn of course take classes and the courses are also open to the public.

“It’s quite an eclectic group,” Johnson said.

Those in training include people changing their careers to become a pilot, people with a passion for flying and people who want to learn more about careers in aviation.

Johnson said the program places high school students in the same classroom with CEOs of big businesses. The student who flies in the time slot before Traficante on Saturdays is a neurosurgeon.

“It’s student pilot and student pilot,” he said. “They are both in the same spot. It’s very much an equalizer.”

Traficante said flying is definitely a profession he wants to get into. He said his solo flight was just the beginning of a commitment.

He plans to major in Aerospace Engineering in college and hopes to one day contribute to the design and testing of new aircraft and avionics.