KwaZulu-Natal - While most of his friends are still mastering the rules of the road for their learner’s licence, 15-year-old Colin Campbell is free to take to the air after becoming one of the youngest South Africans to be awarded a student pilot’s licence.

The Pietermaritzburg teen took to the skies on his first solo flight just over a week ago, saying afterwards: “It was amazing.”

In talking about the 1 000-foot ascent he made in a Cessna 150 last Thursday, he said: “I have never felt anything like it before.”

Until recently the minimum age for a student pilot was 16. However, a few months ago, the Civil Aviation Authority reduced that to 15.

When Dave Campbell, Colin’s father and the chief flying instructor at the Pietermaritzburg Aero Club heard the news, he jumped at the opportunity and the two began the application process immediately.

Before being awarded his licence, Colin had to pass theory exams in air law and aircraft knowledge.

He also had to be medically cleared to fly and to clock at least 10 hours of dual flying with an instructor.

The Grade 10 Pietermaritzburg College pupil achieved all this while studying for his end-of-year exams.

“It requires a lot of discipline,” said Dave, “And I’m obviously very proud of him.”

But Colin said it had not been much of a sacrifice.

“I was just so excited to get my licence and to be able to fly by myself,” he beamed.

“I’ve been passionate about aeroplanes for as long as I can remember.”

Dave explained: “Colin has been flying with me since he could reach the controls.

“It is in our blood. My father was a pilot in the war and many of Colin’s uncles and cousins are pilots.”

Colin said he was unsure what he would do one day, but whatever it was it would definitely involve flying. - The Mercury