Cleared for takeoff: Flying big part of Springboro family

Andrew Wiedeman can’t remember his first time in an airplane.

“It’s always been there,” the Springboro resident said, trying to recall his earliest memory of flying among the clouds.

Aviation has been a constant in Andrew’s life. For him, getting into an airplane is as natural as getting into a car. He started practicing to get his pilot’s license in high school, and by the time he took his first solo flight at the age of 17, he said it felt natural to him.

“It was just another day in the airplane,” Andrew said.

When Andrew got his pilot’s license at the age of 19 last December, he joined his two older sisters and his father in the ranks of licensed pilots across the United States.

Flying is central to the Wiedeman family. All three children, Elizabeth, Eleanor and Andrew, have their pilots licenses.

Elizabeth, who is now a junior at the University of Cincinnati, was the first to get her license in 2017. She was 19 at the time. Eleanor followed a year later after graduating from UC at the age of 22.

Out of the 325 million people in the United States there were less than 200,000 private pilots, according to the FAA. The Wiedeman children’s father, Doug Wiedeman, has been one for over 36 years.

Doug Wiedeman, a longtime Springboro resident, first looked to the skies during a field trip in 1963 when he was in the first grade. During that trip, children could take an airplane ride for just $1 – but Weideman had lost his. He was sitting alone and crying when a teacher approached him and “found” his lost dollar.

It was that experience that gave Wiedeman the drive to become a pilot.

“On a nice day like that, when the sun is shining and the clouds are billowing around you, there’s just nothing cooler,” Wiedeman said.

Time together in the skies have brought the Wiedeman family together. Elizabeth said some of her favorite childhood memories are flying to visit family in Indiana. She said her dad would move the plane up and down like a rollercoaster as they flew.

“My mom would hate it, but me, my brother and sister would think it was so much fun,” Elizabeth said.

Having a pilots license isn’t all that common. In Andrew’s case, he was one out of 3201 boys between the ages of 17 and 19 to earn a private pilot license out of a pool of 6.5 million boys born between 1999 and 2001.

In the case of Elizabeth’s peers, there were even less. The FAA reported in 2017 that only 401 girls aged 17 to 19 and born between 1998 and 2000 received private pilot’s licenses. During that time, 5.85 million girls were born.

Wiedeman said he's noticed an aging pilot population at FAA meetings. According to the FAA, there were around 163,000 active private pilots in 2018, down from more than 200,000 2008, according to FAA data.

“There’s no future in anything that just has old people involved in it,” Doug Wiedeman said. “The number of pilots that they need right now are quite a few.”

Elizabeth said that many of her friends were shocked when they learned that she had a pilot’s license. She said it might seem far off and unattainable, but the process is simple and the benefits are huge.

“They think it’s something crazy to do, but it’s really so simple and the process of getting it is quite easy,” Elizabeth said.

According to the FAA, a student pilot certificate is not required to get a pilot’s license. Anyone who is above the age of 16 and can read, speak and understand English is eligible for a student pilot certificate, according to the website.

Doug Wiedeman said there are many benefits to becoming a private pilot. He used his plane to travel and meet with clients throughout his career.

“I spent less time traveling, and more time in front of customers,” Doug Wiedeman said.

Elizabeth, who is studying nursing, said that flying helped hone her multitasking skills and made her more aware of her surroundings. She’s considering becoming a flight nurse. Andrew said that his pilot’s license has made him more marketable for potential internships.

Doug Wiedeman said having a private pilot’s license doesn’t just help young people stand out in a crowd, but also helps to build their confidence and show that they can put their mind to a task and finish it.

“Confidence is probably one of the biggest things they’ll get out of it,” Doug Wiedeman said.

Getting involved with flight is as easy as stopping by a local airport and asking questions, Andrew said.

Doug Wiedeman encouraged parents to introduce their children to flight, or at least let them try an introductory lesson at a local airport.

Elizabeth said that flying, for her, is in many ways similar to driving a car, just without any stop signs, stop lights or many limitations on where you can go.

“It’s quite freeing,” Elizabeth said.

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