Area teen takes to the skies



January 16, 2010 - 12:00 AM

Don’t blame Miranda Myer if she has her head in the clouds from time to time. But unlike most 16-year-olds, where such a statement would mean a penchant for daydreaming, Miranda is studying to become a pilot. Miranda is a sophomore at Humboldt High School, the daughter of Kim and Mike Myer. She has spent a total of 25 hours in the cockpit — and at times at the controls — of a J-3 Piper Cub, a small airplane perfectly designed for training, and a 1970s model Decathlon. Her Christmas break was spent at a flight school in Cairo, Ga., learning avionics and ailerons. A certification snafu involving her instructor and a pesky crosswind prevented Myer from achieving her ultimate goal of the trip — getting to fly solo — but that will likely change soon. She was invited for more flight lessons this summer, and there’s been talk of her flying the length of the Mississippi River or cross-country. “I’ve always loved the freedom,” she said. “When you’re up there and there’s no one else around, it’s like you’ve left your troubles on the ground”.

MYER’S love of flying has been around “as long as I can remember,” she said. Miranda and her father were regulars at the Allen County Airport’s annual fly-ins in the early 2000s. From there, the pair soon became avid followers of area air shows, traveling to Wichita, Branson, Mo., and other locales across Kansas and Missouri. It was at a show in Wichita three years ago featuring Patty Wagstaff, famed aerobatics pilot, that the Myers crossed paths with Chris Rudd, Wagstaff’s crew chief.  A friendship quickly developed. They frequently crossed paths at subsequent air shows, where Rudd learned of Miranda’s passion for flight. “We were at an air show in Branson last summer, when Mike saw us and invited us to talk with Patty again,” Mike recalled. It was then that Rudd mentioned the December flight school. Normally, such a venture would cost thousands of dollars for the participant. “We figured it would cost about $100 for every hour she was up in the plane, and we couldn’t afford that,” her father said. This time, Rudd offered Miranda free lessons. For a girl who hopes to join the Air Force Academy after high school graduation, it was a chance of a lifetime. “I was in shock,” she recalled. “I never figured anything like that would happen”.

THE FATHER and daughter drove from their Humboldt home on Christmas morning, through about half a continent’s worth of snowy weather, to arrive at the airfield the next day. Within an hour of her arrival, Miranda was airborne. The instruction was intense. When not in the cockpit, or sleeping, Myer was absorbing everything she could learn about flying. “A lot of it dealt with reading maps and what the numbers meant,” she said. “I’ve always been a quick learner about things like that”. Indeed, she aced her preliminary exam, missing only one of 18 questions, and was soon accompanying Rudd and two other instructors on a number of flights across the Georgian sky. By the fifth day of her training, Rudd had agreed that Miranda was ready to begin flying solo. One problem. Rudd, who is working on his certification to become a flight instructor, had yet to complete the certification. Instead, Myer was paired with another instructor, who by the second day was given the go-ahead. But then Mother Nature reared its head, hammering the airstrip with a steady crosswind. The Myers stuck around for two days hoping the wind would subside, but it proved relentless. Instead, they drove back to Kansas on New Year’s Day. The last notation that her instructors wrote was that she was ready for solo flying, the last step to earning her student pilot certificate. “She’s not disappointed about the solo (attempt),” Mike Myer said. “She knew that the winds were too strong”. Perhaps it was her attitude about not flying solo that provided her father with a semblance of comfort. After all, while Miranda carries a passion for flying, she also understands that safety commands the highest priority, her father noted. “There are a lot of pilots — older pilots — who they didn’t let fly, but they did with Miranda,” Mike Myer said. Still, despite his daughter’s quick ascension into the world of flight, Mike is a bit apprehensive when she’s up there. “I’m a bit more nervous than she is,” he admitted. “It’s hard to watch”. Miranda chuckles at her father’s anxiety. His nerves were alleviated — albeit slightly — during one flight in which Mike was allowed to ride along with Miranda and her instructor. “Why are you so nervous,” she asked her father. “It’s fun”. And then there was the time when Miranda, with the instructor at her side, landed the Piper Cub and taxied it back to the airfield’s office area. Unknown to Mike below, a stuck flap disabled the plane’s air speed indicator, which is vital for pilots to know how fast to approach the runway for landing. She successfully landed the craft without a hitch. “Miranda just replied that it was no big deal,” Mike said. “She sounded like an experienced pilot when she said that”. Even the other pilots were impressed with the landing, Mike said.

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