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Young Eagle Flight Sparks Family's Passion to Fly

Justin McBurney
Justin McBurney soloed five airplanes on his 16th birthday.

McBurney Family
The Flying McBurney family, Gary, Justin, and Jeneace.

November 18, 2010 — This past Sunday, November 15, was a big day for Justin McBurney, of Apple Valley, California. He turned 16, which meant he was able to make his first solo flight as allowed by the FAA regulations. Make that flights. Justin flew five different airplanes that day, starting with a 1946 Aeronca Champ and followed by his family’s Cessna 172, a C-152 and 150, and a Piper Warrior.

But this story has as much to do with Justin’s family and the aviation bug he unleashed on it after his Young Eagles flight in December 2004. Since that day, both his father and mother, Gary and Jeneace, have become private pilots, and Gary, in particular, found a new career. He is now a CFII, holds commercial and ATP certificates, is a licensed instrument and advanced ground instructor, and holds complex high-performance and tailwheel endorsements.

When Justin was 10 years old, they saw an ad in the paper about Young Eagles flights held the first Saturday of the month at the local Apple Valley Airport. Within a couple of months the family went to the Airport and Justin received his first flight in a Harmon Rocket. “It was partially aerobatic,” Justin said.

“He was grinning for two weeks after that,” Gary said. “He said, ‘I wanna be a pilot.’” Realizing his son’s true interest in flying lit a spark in Gary, because by March the next year he was taking flight lessons and by July he passed his checkride. “I thought it would be cool for me to get my license, go for $100 hamburgers,” he said. It also gave him the chance to become involved in his son’s newly found passion for flight.

Within 18 months Gary was a certificated flight instructor. “Justin had been flying with me all along,” Gary said. “When I became a CFI, and since it was Justin who got me started, he was my first flight student.”

Gary now works as an instructor at the Apple Valley Airport FBO and has a personal goal to never be required to take a flight review through continued flight training and designations. He currently has more than 3,100 flight hours logged. The McBurneys have a 1969 Cessna 172 (K model) they acquired in 2006 and most of their training has occurred in that airplane.

Justin has other interests, including working on older cars, and he’s also a linebacker on the Granite Hills High football team. Justin plans to attend college, but is undecided on what he wants to do. Aviation will always be at least a hobby for him, he said.

The past week also saw another landmark day for Justin; on Wednesday, November 17, he had his auto driver’s road test.

“Now I can drive myself to the airport, and fly myself,” he said.

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