Sixteen-Year-Old Completes Triple First Solo on His Birthday

Aviator hopes to inspire others to start flying.

Drew Gryder
Drew Gryder
Drew Gryder

October 14 was no ordinary day for Drew Gryder of Hampton, Georgia. It was the day of his 16th birthday. And Gryder spent this milestone birthday doing something not many, if any, teenagers had done before. He completed triple solo flights – taking to the skies in a glider, a single-engine airplane and a multi-engine airplane.

With the weather gods cooperating on the day of the flights, Gryder’s first solo was conducted at 12:01 a.m. when he took off in a Cessna 150 just ahead of his father and a local friend, Scotty Collins, who were each also flying Cessnas. “I’ve been waiting for a while and I wanted to get it knocked out,” Gryder said of his early morning solo. After landing and catching a few hours of sleep, Gryder soloed in a Piper Apache Geronimo and was then pulled up in a Schleicher K 7 glider.

While some may call the endeavor risky, Gryder was already quite an accomplished pilot on the day of his solo flights. He has been flying all his life with his father Dan Gryder, a Delta captain and dedicated flight instructor who has taught his son and many others to fly. At the time of the solo flights, the father/son team had been focused on flight training for about 2.5 years and flying the Apache for about two years.

Gryder said there were great benefits to learning to fly with his father. “I could come home from football practice and fly. And it made it a lot easier for me to ask questions and feel comfortable in the airplane,” he said.

I asked Gryder whether he’s going to attempt to get all three ratings on his next birthday. “We’ve got a year,” he said. “That’s probably a reasonable goal.” Since he’s already eligible to get his glider rating, there is little doubt that he’ll be able to do it. And Gryder has other goals as well. “I would love to be able to fly as a career pilot someday, but I also wanted to show other kids that age 14 and 15 is not too young to start,” Gryder said.