Clarke Martin, 17, pulls down the hatch of a Diamond 20 single-engine propeller aircraft as she prepares for her solo flight at Atlanta Regional Airport at Falcon Field in Peachtree City. (Special Photo)
RIVERDALE — She is barely old enough to drive, but she already knows how to fly.
Riverdale High School senior Clarke Martin recently completed training in the Flight Line Academy, sponsored by the Organization of Black Airline Professionals.
“It was a cool experience — a new, different experience,” said Martin, 17. “I want to be a commercial pilot for a major airline.”
Martin started her flight experience a year ago as a participant in OBAP’s Aviation Career Enrichment Camp in which several dozen metro Atlanta teenagers toured historical aviation sites including Delta Airlines Headquarters in Atlanta.
She was among a select few from that original ACE Camp chosen to attend Flight Line Academy. She received 15 hours of flight instruction and 40 hours of ground or classroom instruction on the theory of flight.
Solo flights marked the first significant steps toward obtaining their pilots license. They made the solo runs in a Diamond 20 single-engine propeller aircraft at Atlanta Regional Airport at Falcon Field in Peachtree City.
Martin said flying solo was her favorite part of the experience.
“It was crazy,” she said. “At first, I was nervous.”
The academy’s director is 1st Officer Jason Inniss. He recalled being a teen like Martin, dreaming of a career as a commercial pilot himself.
“It was my goal from day one to be a pilot,” Inniss said.
He graduated Western Michigan University with a bachelor’s degree in aviation science. At 29, he flies 76-passenger commercial airplanes for Express Jet, which operates as Delta Connection throughout the country.
Inniss has spent part of his vacation volunteering the past four years in the youth flight program.
“We have been going for 13 years at Falcon Field,” he said.
He said the academy is free to its participants, but it costs about $5,000 each camper to get them trained, all paid for by Delta Airlines, with help from Chick-fil-A.
A schedule of upcoming events and programs for OBAP is available at www.obap.org.