Air Force

‘In Shock': Air Force Honors Prince George's Teen, Invites Him on Flight

Caleb Smith, 16, is the youngest pilot in the country to earn a private glider license

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No one saw it coming — least of all, Prince George's County, Maryland, student Caleb Smith.

Smith, a color guardsman at Charles Flowers High School, thought Air Force District of Washington Maj. Gen. Joel Jackson was there Tuesday to give an assembly about the Air Force.

"We really want you to want to fly United States Air Force," Jackson told the audience of students.

After all, the assembly took place at Charles Flowers High School, named in honor of a Tuskegee Airman.

But then, Jackson asked, "Caleb Smith, are you here?"

That's when Smith had an idea there was a surprise in store.

"I really had no idea until I got pulled up there, and I was just baffled. I had no idea what to say. Even right now I have no idea what to say. I'm just kind of in shock right now," Smith said.

Jackson asked Smith if he'd like to go for a ride in a helicopter that was waiting outside.

Of course, the answer to that question was clear. Smith, 16, is the youngest pilot in America to earn a private glider pilot license.

As they exited the auditorium for the football field, teachers and students whispered, 'This makes sense.'"

"I'm probably almost as excited as he is," said Deputy Cmdr. Henry Waller with the Bowie Squadrom of Civil Air Patrol.

Thankfully, Smith's family was also there to enjoy the moment.

"My heart is pounding," his dad Chazz Smith said.

Smith's own grandmother said she also got the piloting bug at young age.

"I was in civil patrol when I was in school, in high school, and I loved flying and I still do. Maybe that's where Caleb got his affinity to fly," Francene Foote said.

Once in the air, Smith was right at home. The wind blew through his finger tips and the helicopter zipped around the monuments along the National Mall. It's a vantage point many don't get to see.

"Just being in the air is just natural for me. I absolutely love it. … Being that low to the ground was so cool," Smith said after the trip.

"Caleb really is the most humble person, right? I mean, it's like he is unflappable and he was just soaking it all in," Jackson said.

Smith says he wants to inspire others through his passion for flying.

"Hopefully, I can influence others in a way that people like me can do what I'm doing, be successful," Smith said.

Although he's only a sophomore, his dad said he is interested in joining the military and eventually becoming a commercial pilot.

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