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Grantham high schooler, now with pilot’s license, looks to a future in flight

  • Sid Wallace, 17, of Grantham, N.H., returns his family's Cessna 172 to its hangar at Parlin Field Airport in Newport, N.H., on Friday, July 16, 2021. Wallace hopes to become either a corporate pilot or a commercial pilot, like his dad. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Sid Wallace, 17, of Grantham, N.H., with his family's Cessna 172 at Parlin Field Airport in Newport, N.H., on Friday, July 16, 2021. Wallace got his private pilot's license on July 1, and says he's more comfortable flying a plane than driving a car. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

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    Sid Wallace, 17, of Grantham, N.H., with his family's Cessna 172 at Parlin Field Airport in Newport, N.H., on Friday, July 16, 2021. Wallace has been learning to fly with his dad, Jack Wallace, since before his feet could reach the pedals. "I wish more people got to experience flying," he said. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/17/2021 9:48:08 PM
Modified: 7/17/2021 9:59:59 PM

NEWPORT, N.H. — Grantham resident Sid Wallace first took the controls of an airplane when he was 12 years old, in the cockpit with his father and sitting on a boat cushion so his feet could reach the pedals.

Five years later and now a rising senior at Lebanon High School, the 17-year-old Wallace passed his practical flight check and received his private pilot’s license on July 1.

“I’m just really proud of him,” Jack Wallace, Sid’s father and flight teacher, said in a phone interview on Monday. Jack Wallace, a pilot for United Airlines, said his son “knows more about airplanes than I do, and I do it for a living. On some of his free periods at school, he’ll go to the airport and just watch airplanes land.”

The road to a private pilot’s license is not easy — Parlin Field Airport Manager Heath Marsden describes it as a “job interview on steroids.” Before taking the practical flight check, 40 hours’ flight time is required, as well as a solo flight and 5 hours and 150 nautical miles of cross-country flying that lands at three airports.

Sid Wallace, who flies a single-engine Cessna 172 out of Parlin Field in Newport, far exceeded these requirements, going into his flight check with 87 hours more than needed. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was unable to schedule the test until almost a year later than planned, so there was plenty of time during quarantine to practice flying and beat the boredom.

Despite being a nervous test taker, Sid said that when he finally took the test this year he trusted his knowledge.

His experience also helped assuage his nerves the first time he flew by himself the day he turned 16.

“It definitely was (nerve-wracking) just because it was the first time flying without my dad being there,” said Sid. “But once I got up, the nerves kind of went away because I definitely knew what I was doing. Once I got up there I was like, ‘I don’t ever want to land; this is the best feeling ever — the freedom.’ ”

He got his driver’s license later that day.

Both Jack Wallace and Marsden agreed the flight check was one of the most difficult parts of getting a license. In addition to keeping calm under pressure and performing different maneuvers, the examiner can’t take control of the plane at any point and they try to distract the pilot, Jack Wallace said.

Jack and Sid are not the only aviation enthusiasts in the family, helping Sid to pursue what can be an expensive goal. In addition to Jack’s career as a commercial airline pilot, Sid’s mom Dianne Wallace used to be a flight attendant for United Airlines, and two of his uncles are pilots as well.

Jack and Dianne said it’s uncommon for someone so young to get their private pilot’s license.

“With all the other normal teenager factors like sports and girlfriends, it’s pretty hard for kids to stick to it and to do it as soon as they’re legal,” Dianne Wallace said. “He hates that I brag about him, too.”

As a parent, Jack Wallace said it was sometimes difficult to be Sid’s flight instructor because he wanted his son to have fun with him.

“But when you fly, it’s really serious,” he said. “You don’t get any second chances. Sometimes when you’re teaching your own child, just the dynamics of a father and a son” can make it hard.

Despite occasional bickering, Sid said his dad was his main motivation, pushing him to keep working toward his dream through everything else that comes with high school.

On top of having his private pilot’s license, Sid plays baseball, races motocross, designs and builds remote control airplanes and volunteers at Parlin Field, once helping to re-shingle the operations building. He used to play football, too, but decided to stop last year because it interfered with “the prime time for flying.”

Sid said one of his favorite flight memories was landing at a grass runway in Plymouth, N.H., with a view of the White Mountains. A one-day trip, Sid flew there with his girlfriend for a picnic under the shade of the plane wing before flying back home.

“This is a lifelong passion for Sid,” said Lebanon High School Principal Ian Smith, “and to be able to do it at such a young age and to such huge regard, I’m a bit jealous.”

In the coming year, Sid will be applying to colleges with flight programs, heading toward a dream career as a commercial airline pilot like his dad. He hopes to go to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. Many people go into flight school without any experience, so Sid will be well ahead of the game with his private pilot’s license.

“As soon as I landed and I cleared the runway at Keene, the guy said, ‘So, how does it feel to be a private pilot?’ and I was like ‘Oh, my god, I passed!” Sid said of his flight check. “I almost felt like I’ve been training my whole life for that one moment. But now I can officially say that I’m a pilot.”

Jasmine Taudvin can be reached at jtaudvin@vnews.com.




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