Safe and Sound: Young Pilot Spreads His Wings

Good News: Young SWGA pilot takes a graduation flight to St. Simons Island

SUMTER CO., Ga. (WALB) - A 2020 Americus-Sumter graduate is making the best of the situation at hand, by learning new skills and flying high in the sky.

Mike Harris one of the youngest black pilots in Southwest Georgia.

Mike Harris, Pilot
Mike Harris, Pilot (Source: Mike Harris, Pilot)

On August 3, 2019, at just 17-years-old he became a pilot, something he wanted to do his entire life.

“The earliest that you can get your license is 17, I got my license less than a month after I turned 17 last year. So, I was definitely like the youngest of the group,” Harris said.

He went through a grueling training program and a tight selection process.

Mike Harris, Pilot
Mike Harris, Pilot (Source: Mike Harris, Pilot)

Fast forward to Spring 2020, Harris graduated with honors from Americus-Sumter High School during the pandemic.

“We had our seats spaced apart six feet apart, we had to wear a mask, and we didn’t get to actually walk we just stood up, turned our tassels turned around, and sat back down, but it was still a good experience,” Harris said.

Mike Harris 2020 Americus Sumter Grad
Mike Harris 2020 Americus Sumter Grad (Source: Mike Harris)

After turning those tassels, he went up in the sky with a few friends and flew over to St. Simon’s Island.

Harris said this would not have been possible without the Tuskegee NEXT program which helps diversify the aviation field.

Mike Harris, Pilot that was apart of the Tuskegee Next program
Mike Harris, Pilot that was apart of the Tuskegee Next program (Source: Mike Harris, Pilot)

“The more people of color we can get in the better, the more diverse and the more ideas we have flowing,” he said.

He spent his entire summer in 2019 with the Tuskegee NEXT minority program with 15 other African Americans, even meeting Chance The Rapper.

Mike Harris, Pilot
Mike Harris, Pilot (Source: Mike Harris, Pilot)

The program covered his entire license which is about $15,000 dollars.

He tells me his family is very proud and he even took them for a flight near the training school in Chicago.

“I flew the Chicago skyline at sunset which was great. It was really cool because that’s usually not the first flight people do after they get their license because it’s a little hard that altitude restrictions,” he said.

He will head to Middle Tennessee State University in the fall for an aviation degree with a professional pilot concentration.

“My ultimate goal is to fly cargo, and give back the same way the program I am in now has given back to me,” he said.

Harris says anyone can do it!

Mike Harris, Pilot
Mike Harris, Pilot (Source: Mike Harris, Pilot)

If you’re interested in becoming a pilot and would like to be in the same program, click here.

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