16-year-old pilot sets her sights for the skies

Friday, August 10, 2018
Sunny Ross, a 16-year-old pilot, sits in her plane the day of her first solo flight last Friday. Ross has spent the past two years practicing with her flight instructor at the Shelbyville Airport. With the help of her family and friends, Ross will continue her aviation journey in the future.
Tribune photo by Erin Morris

While most sixteen-year-olds look forward to driving their first car alone, Sunny Ross solo piloted her very own plane on her 16th birthday. What better way to celebrate another milestone than a first solo flight.

Ross has been flying since she was 14 years old. Her aviation journey began in Nashville at a weeklong flight camp. Other than thinking planes were neat, Ross had no prior exposure to flying.

“I fell in love with flying at that camp,” Ross said moments before her flight. “I know I‘m ready for this.”

Soon after that camp was over, Ross urged her parents to help her with her dreams of becoming a pilot. Though Ross’ parents were initially skeptical about her owning and flying a plane, they decided to get her both a plane and an instructor through the flight school in Shelbyville.

Ross’ father, Cameron Ross, stated she has always been a very determined individual. When she was younger, she wanted to take part in martial arts. After her parents signed her up, Ross went to a state competition and won.

The same thing happened with the marching band. According to her father, she came home one day and said she wanted to play an instrument. Before he knew it, Ross went to another state competition and won.

Now, just at the age of 16, Ross has her pilot’s license and can legally solo pilot her plane. She even got her pilot’s license before her dad.

“I wanted to see what she was doing or what she would be doing,” Cameron Ross said. “She just beat me to it.”

Friends and family gathered at Shelbyville Airport last Friday to support Ross. Her flight instructor, Joe Roberts, accompanied Ross on a few laps before takeoff.

“I know she is ready, there’s no doubt in my mind,” Roberts said. “She’s been doing this for a while now.”

Even though Ross is a sophomore at Forrest High School, she makes time for flying on the weekends. Other than flying and focusing on her academics, she is part of the marching band.

Her future is undetermined, but Ross knows for sure aviation is in it. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, it requires all pilots to be at least 17 before they can obtain a private pilot license. With just one year away, Ross plans on getting her private license. She plans to become a certified flight instructor in college.

“Eventually, I want to become a commercial pilot,” Ross said. “Because boxes don’t complain.”

As Ross took her place at the helm, her parents rushed over to wish her luck one more time. She waved to everyone before clearing the runway and taking off. After completing one smooth lap, her flight instructor pointed out her landing skills.

“The way she landed that plane was like a true professional,” Roberts said.

Ross stepped out of the plane with a huge smile on her face. She looked to her parents before laughing.

“I’m not dead guys,” Ross said. “I made it.”