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Teen receives pilot's licence before driver's licence

Gander teenager Brianna Ricketts completed a power pilot program over the summer to earn her wings.
Gander teenager Brianna Ricketts completed a power pilot program over the summer to earn her wings.

GANDER, N.L. — There aren't too many teenagers that can just hop in a plane by themselves and take to the skies, but Brianna Ricketts can.

While the 17-year-old Gander resident doesn't have her driver's licence yet, she completed the power pilot program over the summer and earned her wings.

Brianna obtained her glider licence last year and felt that getting a power pilot licence was the next step in her training.

Being involved with the 537 Gander Air Cadets, she was able work her way through an intensive application process to receive a $10,000 Power Pilot Scholarship that's awarded to only 250 cadets throughout the country. Only five cadets from Newfoundland and Labrador were selected to take part in the program.

Brianna spent seven weeks between the classroom and sky honing her skills to ready for the written examination that would enable her to fly solo.

"The hands on in the plane was perfect, it was the easiest part of the course," she said. "But in the classroom, doing the test - Transport Canada examination - that was my biggest challenge. But after that I was flying."

And Brianna has already put her newly acquired skills to use, having flown from Gander to St. John's and back by herself; with a follow up flight to Fogo Island.

She attributes her involvement with the Air Cadets to being able to pursue her passion.

"I wasn't really sure about joining at first, but when I did I knew that this was for me," she said. "If had not of joined I probably would not have done this program, and because I did, now I'm a power pilot."

And Brianna has no intentions of stopping. She has since gone on to be certified in floatplanes and is working towards her night rating.

From there, Brianna hopes to obtain a commercial licence and instructor rating.

"After building a lot of hours, I'm hoping to apply for water bombers," she said. "My other goal is to be a Snowbirds pilot — I think that would be so much fun."

Dion Abbott, 537 Gander Commanding Officer, sees Briana's interest in aviation and called availing of the program a great stepping stone towards her goals.

"A lot of people join cadets because of their interest in aviation, which is not the case for everybody, because some join for all the other stuff we do," he said.

"Brianna is really into the aviation side of cadets and she's really taken it upon herself to get to where she is. Taking on this program was a huge financial step to have in her back pocket, and she's got lots of experience to go with it.

"So once she comes out of high school she's already a step ahead of a lot of individuals."

While the 17-year-old Gander resident doesn't have her driver's licence yet, she completed the power pilot program over the summer and earned her wings.

Brianna obtained her glider licence last year and felt that getting a power pilot licence was the next step in her training.

Being involved with the 537 Gander Air Cadets, she was able work her way through an intensive application process to receive a $10,000 Power Pilot Scholarship that's awarded to only 250 cadets throughout the country. Only five cadets from Newfoundland and Labrador were selected to take part in the program.

Brianna spent seven weeks between the classroom and sky honing her skills to ready for the written examination that would enable her to fly solo.

"The hands on in the plane was perfect, it was the easiest part of the course," she said. "But in the classroom, doing the test - Transport Canada examination - that was my biggest challenge. But after that I was flying."

And Brianna has already put her newly acquired skills to use, having flown from Gander to St. John's and back by herself; with a follow up flight to Fogo Island.

She attributes her involvement with the Air Cadets to being able to pursue her passion.

"I wasn't really sure about joining at first, but when I did I knew that this was for me," she said. "If had not of joined I probably would not have done this program, and because I did, now I'm a power pilot."

And Brianna has no intentions of stopping. She has since gone on to be certified in floatplanes and is working towards her night rating.

From there, Brianna hopes to obtain a commercial licence and instructor rating.

"After building a lot of hours, I'm hoping to apply for water bombers," she said. "My other goal is to be a Snowbirds pilot — I think that would be so much fun."

Dion Abbott, 537 Gander Commanding Officer, sees Briana's interest in aviation and called availing of the program a great stepping stone towards her goals.

"A lot of people join cadets because of their interest in aviation, which is not the case for everybody, because some join for all the other stuff we do," he said.

"Brianna is really into the aviation side of cadets and she's really taken it upon herself to get to where she is. Taking on this program was a huge financial step to have in her back pocket, and she's got lots of experience to go with it.

"So once she comes out of high school she's already a step ahead of a lot of individuals."

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