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Young Pilot has a Plan and High Aspirations

Taylor De Ley
Taylor learned to fly in a Super Cub but has flown about 35 different types.

Taylor De Ley
Taylor stands next to a Beech 18 he flew at Corona Airport.

Taylor De Ley
Taylor pilots the RV-4 he’ll fly around the country, including a stop at AirVenture Oshkosh, this summer.

June 2, 2011 — Ever since he can remember, Taylor De Ley, EAA 1058541, of Yorba Linda, California, dreamed of being a professional pilot. The son of a private pilot, Taylor has carefully devised an ambitious plan he hopes will land him in the left seat of an airliner.

He started flying gliders at age 13, soloing at 14. “I thought it was really cool that you could solo in a glider at age 14,” Taylor said. On his 16th birthday, he earned both his glider pilot certificate and soloed in the family’s Cessna Cardinal. Earlier this year on his 17th birthday, he received his private pilot certificate with 230 flight hours in his logbook.

Taylor will graduate from Esperanza High School next week with a 4.4 GPA, including nearly two semesters’ worth of advanced placement college credits to jump-start his collegiate career. Right after graduation, he’ll head back to a local community college to take more general courses so he can be in a position to earn his accounting degree in just three years at California Polytechnic State University in Pomona.

“I heard the average time spent getting a degree is like five or six years,” he said. “I sure don’t want to spend six years in college.” Also part of Taylor’s plan is joining Air National Guard in spring of 2012 and hopefully entering military flight training, which he feels will bring him even closer to his ultimate goal of flying for an airline.

Immediately after finishing summer college classes on July 8, he’ll depart Corona Airport on a flight around the perimeter of the United States piloting the RV-4 he built with his dad, Luc. The plane, N884TD, was acquired a couple of years ago as a partially finished project and father and son spent about six months finishing it. Taylor’s journey will take him to the nation’s four corners – Friday Harbor, Washington; northern Maine; Key West, Florida; and back to Los Angeles. His flight plan includes his first visit to AirVenture Oshkosh 2011.

“Coming out of high school this year is a big relief as it has been a rough four years juggling my school workload with cross country (Taylor was a four-year member of the team) and still finding time to go have fun at the airport,” he said. “This is the main reason that made me think of a trip that would get me out of my hectic world before college started and give me a chance to not only enjoy flying, but to see the country and share the joy of flight along my way.”

Taylor has heard plenty about Oshkosh and is really looking forward to experiencing AirVenture firsthand.

“Flying in will be a thrill,” he said. His parents have expressed some concern over congested airspace when he flies into Wittman Regional Airport, but he’s not that worried; he’s downloaded a copy of the NOTAM to his iPad and plans to be well prepared for the flight.

Taylor also hopes to promote teenage aviation across the country and has already contacted several media outlets who’ve agreed to interview him. Among the major destinations Taylor hopes to hit include New York City; Niagara Falls; Washington, D.C., and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum; Kitty Hawk; and Fantasy of Flight in Florida.

Taylor has a goal of 1,000 likes for his Facebook page, “The Trip Around the Country - Taylor De Ley.” He’ll make daily updates during his flight, and regular posts before. Taylor has also secured some sponsorships for his flight, including software for his iPad from ForeFlight, a MyClip kneeboard from TIET, and a compact, military-grade tent and sleeping bag from Snugpak. He continues to seek other sponsors as well.

Even though he’s been around aviation all his life – his dad has been a pilot for more than 15 years and flies a Cessna Cardinal - Taylor says long-time retired instructor at Corona Dave Stevenson influenced his intense passion for flight. “Just before my 15th birthday, my dad took me out to Corona Airport and introduced me to a guy he had talked to a few times,” he recalled. “Little did I know he would change my life.”

Stevenson has a lot of aviation experience, including crop duster, B-52 crew, business owner, flight instructor in anything and everything, skydive pilot, and more.

“What caught me was not only his contagious passion for flying, but his will to share the experience of flight,” Taylor said. “He’s always flying something different.”

Stevenson flew many airplanes at Corona and would often let Taylor tag along. “I’ve logged time in about 35 different types of aircraft, including the Beech 18, de Havilland Beaver, Boeing Stearman, PT-22 Ryan, BT-13, Cessna 401, Marquart Charger, T-18 Thorp,” Taylor said.

Two days after he soloed in an airplane, Taylor took – and failed - his automobile driver’s test. “I was legal to fly an airplane, but could not legally drive a car,” he joked. (He got his driver’s license two weeks later.) Prior to that he would ride his bike 14 miles out to the airport, some days after running up to 11 miles in the morning with the cross country team. Taylor would either fly with Stevenson or wax airplanes in exchange for flight time, then catch a ride home with his dad, who worked near the airport.

Taylor was recently able to work a deal with a Stearman owner where he would keep the plane waxed and spotless in exchange for a checkout. “A few weeks ago I had the rare opportunity to solo a 1942 Stearman,” he said. “Not many 17-year-olds get the chance to say that.”

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