Many teenagers can’t wait until they turn 16 to get their driver’s license and hit the road. Loudoun County High School junior Trey Stroupe had a higher aspiration: pilot an aircraft by himself.
He achieved that goal May 12. Just a few weeks after his birthday, Stroupe took off from Leesburg Executive Airport in a Cirrus SR20 for his first solo flight. He flew to Harper’s Ferry and completed three successful takeoffs and landings.
“I was at a loss for words on the fist flight,” Stroupe said. “I couldn’t talk or anything, I was just taking it all in for the first time. Seeing the ground below, being up in the air, taking it all in from the cockpit.”
Stroupe started flying on his 15th birthday aftrer he received an introductory flight as a birthday gift. By the time the wheels hit the runway, he had found a new passion. Since then he’s
taken flying lessons at Leesburg Executive Airport through a company called OpenAir, while waiting for his next birthday to arrive. Like Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles, the Federal Aviation Administration requires licensees to be 16 years old and to complete 15 hours of supervised time behind the wheel—or rather the yoke—before traveling without an instructor sitting in the next seat.
Stroupe’s flight instructor, Bob Garity, said a student hitting those flying milestones so young is “pretty unusual.”
“It’s unusual to find a young man his age who knows exactly what he wants to do and is going after it,” Garity said. And he said while Stroupe can fly a plane by himself, his parents still drive him to the airport.
Once he graduates from Loudoun County High School, Stroupe plans to attend aviation school; he is looking into U.S. Air Force Academy, University of Colorado, Purdue and Virginia
Tech. He hopes to eventually become an aerospace engineer or a U.S. Air Force pilot.
“I really enjoy flying,” he said. “I think it’s more fun than driving. It’s something that not a lot of people can do and it’s just special to be up in the air.”
For now, in between balancing school, NJROTC and athletics, Stroupe still tries to schedule at least one flying lesson a month to keep his skills sharp.
“He’s a real good pilot,” Garity said. “He’s really conscientious, he studies all the material. He handles the airplane like a professional, and he doesn’t even have a license yet because of age.”
Stroupe also plans to complete all the requirements to obtain his official pilot license as soon he turns 17.
TJ Davis is a summer intern at Loudoun Now, studying journalism at Liberty University.