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Chester County Press

AGHS student becomes youngest private glider pilot in U.S.

08/23/2022 02:41PM ● By Richard Gaw

Photo by Richard L. Gaw         Sixteen year-old Lars Trone of Lincoln University recently became the youngest private glider pilot in the U.S.

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

On the morning of July 25 – his birthday -- Lars Trone of Lincoln University was 3,000 feet in the air above the New Garden Flying Field in Chester County, behind the control stick of a 700-pound glider with Piet Barber, an FAA-designated pilot examiner.

There was a pilot’s checklist tucked into a side pocket beside Lars’ right leg in the cockpit, but his training at the Brandywine Soaring Association (BSA) had well prepared him for this ride, and he had memorized every small detail.

He checked the glider’s altitude on the altimeter.

He was aiming to maintain a 48-knot speed – the optimum lift-over-drag ratio.

The belts, brakes, ballast, canopy, cable, and controls of the glider were all free and correct.

The glider’s yaw string – the simple and tell-tale indicator of coordination taped to the canopy of the aircraft -- was pointing directly at him.

Standing near the runways tarmac, Dave Anderson, Lars’ instructor and other members from BSA stood and watched Trone’s checkride flights.

They knew their student had gone through all of the necessary training. He is a member of the Brandywine Soaring Association at the New Garden Flying Field, and is the cadet commander of the North Chesapeake Cadet Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol at Claremont Airport near Elkton. He had already pored through 1,700-pages of FAA manuals in preparation for this day, and had also logged far more than the minimum flight time and thousands more practicing take-offs and landings on his home flight simulator.

Earlier that month, Lars passed the FAA written exam and acquired an FAA medical certificate to operate a power plane. On July 25th he passed an oral knowledge exam that presented different flight scenarios and took checkride flights accompanied by Barber, where he demonstrated proper flight procedures and various emergency maneuvers.

On July 25, Lars Trone became the youngest private glider pilot in the United States.

He is 16 years old, and is about to begin his sophomore year at Avon Grove High School. With little time to celebrate his big achievement, Lars hurried off to Smoketown Flight Center in Lancaster County, where he had been training separately in a powered aircraft. He had another goal and it was to solo a powered plane on his 16th birthday. After several weather delays Marcial Garcia, his flight instructor, gave him the all clear to complete his 30-minute solo.

‘Being in control of something so much larger than us’

“I first became interested in aviation when my family and I took a commercial flight on vacation when I was 11 years old,” Lars said. “Within six months, my interest in aviation had grown, and one weekend, my father took me to the EAA Chapter 240 pancake

breakfast which also provided a free flight through the Young Eagles program at the New Garden Flying Field.”

Although they arrived to hear that the breakfast had been postponed due to bad weather, Lars, his father Rick and other youngsters were introduced to certified glider flight instructor Dave Anderson, who showed them the BSA hangars, where several gliders were stored.

“Dave asked me if I was interested in learning about gliders, and within about a year, I took my first flight,” Lars said. “I remember that I was nervous during the week leading up to that first flight, but once I sat next to my instructor Mike O’Donnell, the feeling was incredibly amazing.

“From the very beginning, I enjoyed the feeling of being in control of something so much larger than us, and being able to do something that humans cannot do and actually be in control up in the sky.”

“My wife and I have always encouraged Lars and his older sister Sofia – who has taken orientation flights with the Civil Air Patrol -- to follow their passions, in whatever they want to do,” Rick said. “Ironically, although flight makes me uncomfortable, my wife and I decided that we would not let those fears stop what Lars wanted to do.”

From nearly the time Lars took his first solo glider on his 14th birthday, Anderson has served as Lars’ instructor.

“Lars has been one of the most adept students that I have had,” he said. “There has only been one other young pilot I have taught who has passions similar to Lars, and he went on to becoming a registered glider flight instructor when he was 18.

“I see Lars as much more dedicated than most when it comes to aviation, and he spends a lot more time on the less romantic things related to flying such as reading FAA manuals and learning about things not directly related to the fun you get from just flying.

“He has the natural skills, but he does the other book knowledge and studies the many aspects of gliding. Because of that, and because of the support he receives from his parents, I see him going much further in aviation than almost anyone I have ever taught.”

‘Laser-sharp attention’

While a glider is flown in the same general fashion as a normal airplane, the major difference is that a glider gathers its thrust through gravity. During takeoff, gliders are normally towed by – and attached to -- a propeller airplane, and at a certain altitude, the glider pilot will release the rope that is pulling the glider. Once the tow plane and glider are airborne, maintaining ideal position behind the tow plane is the primary task of the glider pilot which better assures control of speed and altitude.

A private glider pilot develops his or her flight acumen to include not only a mastery of hand-eye coordination skills and muscle memory, but a near memorization of every aspect of that which is contained in the many FAA handbooks and texts that is for many pilots required reading. In order to earn a certified private glider license, the pilot must also log a minimum of ten hours of glider flight time over at least 20 glider flights; pass the FAA written exam, perform at least two hours of solo glider flight time and pass the FAA flight exam with an FAA examiner.

“I have never seen focus from anyone like I see focus from Lars,” Rick said. “He gives his passion for aviation and gliding his laser-sharp attention in order to realize and accomplish his goals. For Lars, it’s not just about being able to get in the air, but learning on the ground as well. In total, from actual flight experience, study and practicing takeoffs and landings on his flight simulator at home, he has more than 1,000 hours of complete experience.”

For Lars, who was most recently a counselor at the Future Aviators Camp at the New Garden Flying Field this summer, his eventual goal is to be able to earn admission into either the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. or the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

“When you’re a kid, you latch onto something that excites you, and for Lars, it has been flying,” Anderson said. “It becomes a childhood dream, and a lot of us give up on those childhood dreams as we get older, but others, like Lars, are fortunate enough to never lose sight of those dreams, and continue to make it all work.”

“Ultimately, I want to make a career out of flying,” Lars said. “I have already seen so many young people begin to lose their passion for what they once loved to do, but flying to me is always something I will be excited to do.

“As long as I am flying, I will be happy.”

The Brandywine Soaring Association is located at the New Garden Flying Field in Toughkenamon. To learn more, visit

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].