SHAFTER -- A two-seater plan speeds across the tarmac, lifting off as a silhouette against the sun descending on the horizon. Three laps through the orange and violet twilight sky, touching down in between each lap, and the flight is over.
That was the scene at Minter Field Airport in Shafter on Thursday evening as Mikey Komin took his first solo flight and earned his provisional pilot's license on the day of his 16th birthday.
"It felt great," Komin said, emerging from the plane after the flight. "It was exactly like I imagined. Except more smooth."
Some teenagers plot to get their driver's license on the first day they are eligible -- their 16th birthdays. But Komin made sure he would get his pilot's license that day. Komin plans to get his drivers license next week.
Federal Aviation Administration regulation says a person must be at least 16 years old before getting his or her student pilot certificate, the license Komin got.
While the law says a 16 year old can get a pilot's license, it is rare for that to actually happen, said Stan Pearcy, Komin's instructor. For one, between the plane and the fuel, getting a pilot's license is expensive. Second, it takes a maturity that most 16 years old don't have, Pearcy said.
"Mikey's very mature," Pearcy said. "He's easy to teach. He soaks it up like a sponge."
Komin's first solo flight went well, Pearcy said. The second landing was not as good as the other two, but "no two landings are alike," he said.
Komin took his first flight lesson at age 13, said his dad, Mike Komin. But his love of flight started much before that. Mike Komin used to own a business near Minter Field, and Mikey Komin would spend time at the airport, being flown around by pilots he befriended.
"Mikey's been running around here since he was about 4," Mike Komin said.
Learning to fly was crammed into Mikey Komin's busy schedule of school, football and wrestling. He had to have 30 hours of flight with an instructor before the solo flight and spent countless hours reading books on how to fly. But he was able to handle it, trading in video games for flying, Mike Komin said, and even made the honor roll at Frontier High.
Mikey Komin said it's been his dream to become a pilot like some kids dream of becoming an astronaut. He said he loves the freedom that comes with flying.
"You can go up, you can go down, side to side," he said.
He was nervous, he said, during the first lap of his solo flight. But the next two laps went great, he said.
As the sun finally ducked below the horizon, Mikey Komin drove up to the hangar. His friends and family cheered and rushed to hug him. His instructor Pearcy was handed a pair of scissors and cut off the bottom back of his shirt -- a symbol of getting rid of his tail. Like a winning coach, Mikey Komin was drenched with a container of water by his friends.
"I took off with it," Mikey Komin said of his beginnings in flight. "And haven't looked back."