He was shocked!
The Air Force honored the country’s youngest private glider pilot and invited him on a flight, NBC4 Washington reports.
Maryland teen Caleb Smith made history last year when the FAA confirmed him as the youngest private glider pilot in the nation. At just 16-years-old, Caleb has already completed more than 30 flights, many of them solo. A color guardsman at Charles Flowers High School in Prince George’s County, Maryland, Caleb was recently invited to attend an assembly at his school about the Air Force. At the time, Caleb thought Maj. Gen. Joel Jackson of the Air Force District of Washington was just there to give general info to all the students about the possibilities of joining the U.S. Air Force, something that made perfect sense given that Flowers High is named in honor of a Tuskegee Airman.
“We really want you to want to fly United States Air Force,” Jackson told the crowd of students.
That’s when the Major General asked Caleb if he was in the audience. Unsuspecting, Caleb said that was his first sign that something was going to take place.
“I really had no idea until I got pulled up there, and I was just baffled. I had no idea what to say. Even right now I have no idea what to say. I’m just kind of in shock right now,” Caleb told reporters.
That’s when Jackson asked Caleb if he would like to take a ride in a helicopter that was waiting outside. The two then exited the auditorium to head towards the football field as a crowd of students and teachers whispered all around them. Thankfully, Caleb’s family and local community supporters were all in the audience to share in that special moment.
“My heart is pounding,” said Caleb’s dad, Chazz Smith.
“I’m probably almost as excited as he is,” added Deputy Cmdr. Henry Waller of the Bowie Squadron of Civil Air Patrol.
His grandmother, Francene Foote, also recalled her time in the civil patrol, saying Caleb may have gotten his love for piloting from her.
“I was in civil patrol when I was in school, in high school, and I loved flying and I still do. Maybe that’s where Caleb got his affinity to fly,” said Foote.
Caleb didn’t hesitate to say yes to the surprise field trip, enjoying the helicopter as it zipped around the monuments and down the National Mall in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The teen says he loved every moment of it.
"Just being in the air is just natural for me. I absolutely love it…Being that low to the ground was so cool,” he said.
“Caleb really is the most humble person, right? I mean, it’s like he is unflappable and he was just soaking it all in,” said Jackson.
The teen hopes to inspire others to get into aviation and has plans to join the military and one day become a commercial pilot.
“Hopefully, I can influence others in a way that people like me can do what I’m doing, be successful,” said Caleb.
Photo Courtesy of NBC4 Washington