A Columbus North High School junior is following his family’s longtime tradition in aviation and hopes to see his dreams take flight.

Jared Carroll, 16, hopes to become a commercial airplane pilot and plans to attend aviation school at Auburn or Purdue University after graduating from North.

He’s been taking lessons at the North Vernon Municipal Airport for the past year and a half, he said.

“Since I was little, I’ve always been interested in flying,” Carroll said.

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The inspiration to try aviation came from his grandfather, Jerry Combs, because of his longtime career, he said.

Combs retired from Cummins Inc. as director of flight operations and served in the position on a contractual basis with the company for the next four years, his grandson said. Carroll has practiced flying using Combs’ airplane, which was purchased four years ago from an individual Combs met at the North Vernon Municipal Airport.

The aircraft was purchased as a hobby plane and is used primarily for recreational purposes, Combs said.

Carroll, who competes in swimming at North, has been working with instructor Ron Huddleston and completed his solo flight at the municipal airport Aug. 4 after gaining 10 to 12 hours of logged flying time. He has been flying at North Vernon Municipal Airport as part of his training and devoted a few hours a week during the summer months, but that has since been reduced since school started.

He already has earned a student pilot license and is working toward his private pilot license, which he hopes to have before next summer. To earn a private pilot license, Carroll must pass a practical test and an oral exam, Huddleston said. That exam will be administered by an official with the Federal Aviation Administration or an FAA designee.

The instructor doesn’t think Carroll will have any problems qualifying for the license, he said.

“That background knowledge has been fairly helpful,” Huddleston said. “His comfort level on the plane was pretty high off the bat. He has certainly shown the ability.”

During fall break, Carroll practiced with his family’s 1967 Piper Cherokee at the North Vernon airport.

Learning to fly involves an understanding of navigation, aircraft maintenance and weather patterns, said Combs, who has been a pilot for about 50 years. Getting lessons from a flight instructor typically costs $50 to $60 per hour, he added.

Combs said flying an aircraft requires a person to be focused. “You have to be able to do it and do it right,” he said.

Combs said it’s up to his grandchildren to decide whether they want to pursue aviation full-time as he did. Schools with aviation programs include Vincennes or Purdue University, while Ivy Tech Community College in Columbus also recently launched its professional flight program.

“I want them to have the opportunity to make out a career out of it,” he said.

Possible careers that could be pursued include being pilots or going into aircraft maintenance or support, Combs said.

Carroll’s younger sister, Jocelyn, a North freshman, may be next in line to continue the family tradition.

Jason Carroll, father of the two students, joked that Jason didn’t have a choice in the matter, and it was unlikely that Jocelyn would get out of learning to fly either.

“It’s just something fun to do and we thought it’d be a great idea for both of them,” he said.

Jocelyn Carroll said she hopes to learn from her brother and grandfather in pursuing a pilot’s license.

Ryan Curry, North Vernon Municipal Airport director, said learning to fly an aircraft isn’t as difficult as it appears as long as someone is willing to learn.

“It’s been perceived as something out of reach and it’s really not,” Curry said.

How to earn a student pilot's certificate

To earn a student pilot certificate, an individual must be at least 16 years old and fluent in English.

A person also must submit an application to a Flight Standards District Office, a Federal Aviation Administration-designated pilot examiner, an airman certification representative associated with a part 141 flight school or a certificated flight instructor. Those authorized individuals will process the application and submit the required documents to the Airmen Certification Branch, according to the FAA website.

To earn a private pilot’s license, an individual must have a minimum of 40 hours flying time and must be able to pass a skills and knowledge test, said Jerry Combs, who retired as director of flight operations for Cummins.


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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com