STEPHENVILLE (June 28, 2018)– During summer vacation, most students take a break and spend time relaxing. But, Stephenville High School senior Chase Wakefield is no normal student. He is studying for his private pilot’s license, which he will take the test for this summer.
“I’d go to the airport [as a kid], and I would just watch planes all day long,” Chase said. “So, then I started flying and realized it was something I wanted to do, and I kept working at it to this point.”
Chase decided at 13 that he wanted to learn how to fly. While his parents were supportive, they knew it would be expensive. Flying lessons can be above $200 per hour. Thankfully for Chase, a neighbor told them about the Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary unit of the Air Force.
“I went to one of the meetings,” Chase said. “I loved what it taught me about leadership. I can’t get the individual investment in any other flight school. Through the CAP, I’ve been able to get it at about $40 an hour. It’s been really helpful and such a blessing. Without them it wouldn’t be possible.”
So, at 13 years old, Chase became a member of the Civil Air Patrol and began taking flying lessons in Granbury. He flies a Cessna 172 that he calls Julie Ann.
“My mom jokes around that I don’t need a girlfriend because I have an airplane,” Chase said.
Over the next three years, Chase learned to fly under volunteer Civil Air Patrol instructor Jim Zoeller.
“I love being able to be up in the sky and feel like you’re the only person on earth,” Chase said. “It’s super quiet and a great way to get away and just have you and God in the cockpit. It’s just beautiful.”
Even though Chase loves everything about flying, he used to be nervous about landings. His instructor would always help guide the landing until one day Zoeller told Chase, “Land the plane.”
“My legs are shaking and I can’t breathe because, when you think about it, you are impacting the earth,” Chase said. “I did everything I knew how to do and we bounced a little bit, but we landed. That really built my confidence.”
Chase got his license to fly solo on his 16 birthday.
“I took my driver’s test the next day, and I was more nervous for that than I was for the flying,” Chase said. “I was freaked out to take my driver’s test.”
Now that Chase has turned 17, he is ready to take his private pilot’s license and take his friends and family into the skies. But, first the plane has to come out of the shop in Oklahoma where its being repaired.
“It’s about an eight hour test,” Chase said. “Its about four and a half hours, maybe five, of an examiner from the Federal Aviation Administration that comes down and they can really ask you whatever question about airplanes that they want. I’m kind of nervous. It’s a long test, but I think it will be good.”
After getting his private pilot’s license, Chase plans to continue to volunteer with the Civil Air Patrol. Once he turns 18, he can fly missions as a mission pilot. But, Chase’s next immediate goal is to get his instrument rating.
“It’s extra training about flying in bad weather and in the clouds,” Chase said. “It’s a lot of work and a lot of hours, but I think it’ll be really cool.”
Outside of flying and running his airplane and car cleaning business called Sky Cleaners, Chase is a normal senior. He just got accepted to attend Hardin Simmons after graduation. But, Chase does not plan on becoming a commercial pilot.
“I don’t think I’d ever like to do it as a job,” Chase said. “I think if you love something, a job might take that love away.”
Chase wants to be a pastor one day and possibly fly missionaries around the world.
“That’s pretty challenging with all the places they have to fly into,” Chase said. “But, it would be really rewarding and really cool to do. That’s my goal.”