Caleb Schneider’s bomber jacket covered in aviation patches isn’t just for looks. Each week since Jan. 2 the 10-year-old from North Hall has taken to the air with an instructor, flying to cities across the South.
So far, he’s already logged 38 flight hours. When he turns 17, he’ll have far surpassed the minimum 40 hours to receive his private pilot license.
“It’s hard, but sometimes I like complicated and hard things,” Caleb said.
Caleb’s parents, Andy and Jennifer Schneider, said their son’s interest in flying was unexpected. At 9 years old, Caleb found himself gravitating toward history documentaries about World War II.
“I noticed that he was naming all these different planes on a whim,” Andy said. “I was fascinated and surprised at how much he had absorbed from history and different battles.”
Seeing his fondness for planes, the couple decided to give Caleb his first “discovery flight,” which entails flying up in an airplane with an instructor.
“We saw him come around the hanger when the lesson was done, and he had a smile — ear to ear,” Andy recounted. “He couldn’t stop talking about it.”
So far, Caleb has flown five different planes including a Cessna 172, Cessna 150, Piper Cherokee, Diamond Aircraft DA20 and DA40. The 10-year-old said the largest of the five was the DA40, which can seat up to four people. He takes lessons through Dragonfly Aviation in Winder.
When asked which plane he likes the most, he replied, “I love all of them.”
Caleb’s father, mother and younger sister Lily have all joined him on a flight.
“I’ve been pretty impressed with his focus and being relaxed when he’s up in the sky,” Jennifer said. “ … I think it’s great to have that focus and that ability and drive to want to do something at such a young age.”
Caleb’s longest flight has been 2.4 hours. Some of the airports he has flown to include those in Savannah, Athens, Lawrenceville, Winder, Jackson County, Habersham County, Asheville and Greenwood, South Carolina.
When the topic of Caleb’s lessons comes up among adults, Andy said oftentimes they assume his son plays with remote-controlled planes. To help clear the air, he’ll pull up a video of the 10-year-old flying.
“They’re just amazed,” Andy said.
Although most of the remarks about Caleb’s flying are positive, Andy said sometimes people will say to him, “you’re living your dream through him.”
The father said the thought has never crossed his mind. He just wants his son to be happy.
When he grows up, Caleb said he either wants to be a flight instructor or commercial pilot.
However, wherever his career passions take him, his parents said they’ll support him.
“I tell folks, he’s 10, in two years he might (say), ‘I want to be an architect’ or ‘I want to be an engineer,’” Andy said. “And that’s fine because what an amazing experience he’s had.”
People can follow Caleb’s journey on Instagram by searching topguncaleb.