California boy rises above the crowd as youngest solo pilot

flying plane

March 17, 1996
Web posted at: 2:05 p.m EST

BYRON, California (CNN) -- Dusty Howell became the youngest person to fly solo when he took flight and landed twice Friday at Byron airport. (1M QuickTime movie)

About 100 people came to see the 8-year-old fly an ultralight aircraft, a vehicle categorized as weighing less than 380 pounds. Although he had flown solo previously, Dusty's flight Friday was the first witnessed by a public gathering.

getting ready for takeoff

After the flight Dusty declared, "Today was my favorite solo."

Despite his youth, Dusty already has logged 345 hours in the air. He has had his hands on an airplane's controls since his father -- Randy Howell, an airline pilot -- put him in his lap at age 2 1/2.

Dusty performed an unassisted takeoff at age 4 and an unassisted landing at age 5.

According to Dusty's father, the Guinness Book of World Records has confirmed that Dusty is the youngest solo aviator they are aware of. However, the Guinness organization does not want to recognize Dusty's achievement for fear of sparking a race to younger and younger flying children.

Dusty Howell

The age limit for solo flights on most aircraft is 16, but for ultralight aircraft it is 8.

"He was capable of this two years ago," said Bonny Warner, one of Dusty's instructors. "But his mom wanted him to wait until he was 8.

plane on runway

Dusty's feat is the latest in a stream of youngsters setting aviation records in recent years. In June 1994, Vicki Van Meter became the youngest girl to pilot a plane from Maine to Europe. Also in 1994, Rachel Carter at age 9 became the youngest girl to fly across the country and back.

But Marie Howell, Dusty's mother, brought events into focus when she said at the end of the day, "It's time for Dusty to get back to being an 8-year-old. And he's still got to clean his room."


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