PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY — Folks normally say the sky is the limit; but, the youngest glider pilot in the country is proof that the sky is just where it all starts.
PG County’s own Caleb Smith shares his journey to making his dream of flying come true through hard work, dedication and commitment.
At just 16 years old, he’s no stranger to a bird’s eye view.
"Just to get up on that and have hands on experience, it was mind boggling that I cold be a pilot,” Caleb said.
It was a trip on an airplane on his 10th birthday that put the sophomore on cloud 9.
He says he knew flying was his dream right then and there and hasn’t looked back since.
"I was turning left turning right picking the plane up and down and maneuvering it. It felt so good,” he shared.
During the pandemic, Caleb wasn’t flying as much as he’d like but then he received a scholarship funding 35 flights on gliders which would lead to his first solo flight fueling his interest in growing as a glider pilot.
"I was like Wow these are fascinating types of airplanes they have no engine. It’s crazy they can glide for literally ever,” said Smith.
Caleb says its the peace and quiet he gets from this particular aircraft that makes it so enjoyable and of course, the view - one he's able to share with his proud pop as well.
The teen credits his drive to other pilots and mentors he’s met over the years who have help keep his dream alive by sharing the challenges they’ve experienced along the way..
“The amount of pilots I’ve met and the different stories they tell me, it’s like inspiring. It motivates me to do better, motivated me to get better at gliders and become a pilot and I just want to be them. I want to do what they’re doing,” he told WMAR2 News.
He models after folks like his instructor, retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Arthur Johnson who says he sees a lot of his own personal qualities in Caleb.
“You could sense how much effort Caleb was putting into this and how much energy he was expending and early on probably in his first year of flying my simulator in the basement he was clearly eating up all the landings and challenges that I was providing even some minor emergencies on the simulator and so we took a look at flying instruments and Caleb was able to fly into DCA airport, that’s Raegan National and did not have a problem. He fully understood, had a good special orientation and I was impressed,” said Johnson.
Caleb spent countless hours training at the ground school through his Air Force ROTC class where he could learn about aviation but, he's also learned about principles of success in the process like sacrifice, and dedication.
“He has to say hey guys I can’t hang out tonight on a couple of occasions right, can’t go out with the fellows tonight cause the written test is daily rigorous and so those qualities stood out,” one of his instructors Major Patrick Stovall said.
First-hand, Caleb is watching all of his hard work pay off.
It wasn’t until he received his license that he realized what he’d accomplished becoming the youngest glider pilot in the nation.
“I was like what like are you kidding like once again it still didn’t register in my brain. I was like there’s no way. Out of the whole US I’m the youngest,” Smith said.
He tells WMAR-2 News he’s hoping to inspire his peers to aim high and stay focused just as he is.
“I just want to be that inspiration for them so they can do exactly what I’m doing,” said Smith.
The young pilot tells us he's working on getting into the Air Force Academy hoping to get as many flight hours in as he can in the meantime.
Eventually he aspires to fly F-16’s or fighter jets for the United States Air Force.
Frankly, that's not a cheap endeavor.
For those hoping to help Caleb continue his journey through the skies, click here to check out his GoFundMe page.