Brayden Nunnally looks toward the sky

Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Pilot Curtis Hawkins offers instructions to a young aviation enthusiast Brayden Nunnally. Brayden is hoping to become a pilot. (Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)

Brayden Nunnally of Manila has made up his mind he will someday be a pilot. Brayden, son of Woody and Jessica Nunnally, is almost 13 and has set his goal to fly.

Brayden expressed his interest in flying to his parents. His mother talked to a member of the Manila Pilot's Association about how her son could get information about being a pilot.

Woody Townsend talked to another MPA member, Curtis Hawkins, who keeps his airplane at the Manila Airport.

Brayden at the controls. (photo provided)

Through the efforts of two members Brayden got his first chance to go up in a small airplane on Sunday, Sept. 9.

"Everything about it was fun," Brayden said.

It was not Brayden's first time to fly. He joined his aunt and uncle on a commercial flight to Florida a couple of years ago.

Hawkins enjoyed sharing his knowledge of flying with the young man as Brayden is leaning toward his future goal of being a pilot.

Hawkins took Brayden, his mother, Jessica, and brother, Carson, up in his Cesna Skylane 182, for a familiarization flight giving the young man a chance to see if he was comfortable in a small aircraft before investing in lessons.

It was Jessica and Carson's first time to fly.

"It was awesome," she said. "I enjoyed it as much as Brayden."

Hawkins first talked to Brayden about the training and age guidelines to become a pilot. He emphasized the importance of safety and maintenance.

Lessons can begin at any age, but students are not allowed to solo until the age of 16. The minimum age to get a private pilot license is 17.

Steps include getting a private license, an instrument license and then pilots can go on to get a commercial license.

The group flew to Kennett, refueled, and flew back taking a bird's eye view of Big Lake. Hawkins then flew them over Jonesboro before returning to the Manila Airport.

Hawkins showed Brayden how the auto pilot works and how to set a course using the GPS system.

Brayden and his family expressed their appreciation to Mr. Hawkins for his time. The trip seemed to enhance Brayden's dream of someday being a pilot.

Hawkins has been around airplanes most of his life. Some of his friends are agriculture pilots. He decided to get his private license in 2014. It was a double achievement as his son, John Eric Hawkins, received his license at the same time. John Eric is currently getting his Instrument Rating and then plans to someday work on a CFI (Certified Flight Instructor) certificate. Father and son recently purchased a Citabria Aerobatic plane. Curtis Hawkins said he is not sure what they will do with it, but it should be fun.

Mrs. Nunnally said she was excited to share the experience with her sons. More than before, Brayden has set his future goals to be ready to solo at 16.

Brayden was still smiling when he went to school Monday morning. The flight is something he will always remember.

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