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Recent High School Graduate Ryan Groel Becomes Commercial Pilot

CPL Ryan Groel and FAA Examiner Steve Clegg
Ryan Groel (L) passed his Commercial Pilot checkride administered by FAA Examiner Steve Clegg. Ryan is only 18 years old.

July 22, 2019

New Smyrna Beach, FL – Epic Flight Academy student Ryan Groel just graduated from the Technology, Engineering, Science and Aeronautics (TESA) Academy at Atlantic High School on June 2nd, and on Sunday, July 21st, he passed his FAA checkride to receive his Commercial Pilot License – just 7 weeks after graduating high school. Technically, that means Ryan can be paid to fly an airplane.

How did someone so young accomplish so much so quickly?

Ryan, a Port Orange resident who has been working the past few years as a Volusia County Beach Patrol lifeguard, began volunteering at aviation-related when he was 11 years old. In 2012, he became a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EEA) Chapter 43 in Colorado and taught ground school in the Young Eagles program. Working with other young aviation enthusiasts, Ryan helped build a flight simulator. Moving to Florida with his family in 2015, Ryan joined EEA Chapter 288 in Daytona Beach. Ryan’s many leadership roles include serving as president of the Volusia County Young Aviators from 2014-2016 and vice president of the TESA Academy.

Ryan’s love of flying brought him to Epic Flight Academy where he was awarded a $30,000 flight training scholarship in November 2017 while still a junior in high school. He had just turned 16, the minimum age required by the FAA for a student pilot to solo. Ryan made his first solo flight the following month and earned his Private Pilot wings in February 2018. He went on to earn his Instrument Rating in October 2018. The next step on the pilot checklist is the Commercial Pilot License, which Ryan earned on Sunday.

Epic CEO Danny Perna speaks highly of Ryan. “We have awarded many scholarships, and Ryan is the first of our recipients to take his training this far. He is a hardworking student who loves to fly. As he continues his training, we look forward to hiring him as a flight instructor when he completes his CFI training. He is only 18 years old and has already accomplished so much.”

As a member of the Colorado Young Aviators he helped build a Kid-EZ – a miniature aircraft simulator for very young children who were too young to fly with the club. The project caught the attention of a local pilot who encouraged the group to design and build the forward section of a real B-25. The pilot donated the shell of a cockpit, and the project captured the attention of the national EAA who invited the members to bring their completed B-25 cockpit to the renowned Oshkosh, Wisconsin air show. “Being at Oshkosh and showing our B-25 to all the young kids at Air Venture was something I’ll never forget,” said Ryan.

Ryan’s interests include developing cleaner and faster aircraft that use biofuel and solar. Although he attended the aerospace academy at Atlantic, he frequently engaged with the environmental academy there and became even more aware of human impact on the environment.

For the past two years while going to school full-time, flight training full-time, and working as an ocean lifeguard in summers, Ryan and his classmates built an airplane, a Vans RV-12, which flies out of the DeLand Airport. “The Eagle’s Nest Projects donated everything we needed to build the plane,” he said. “Although they own it, we are allowed to fly it as long as we buy the gas, which is normal auto fuel, so it’s not that expensive.” The students worked on the plane during class and after school.

Ryan’s family inspired his passion for aviation. His paternal grandfather flew every type of plane United Airlines had in its fleet. His maternal grandfather continues to build aircraft from kits, including a Harmon Rocket. Ryan’s father is a pilot at United Airlines and flies a Boeing 787-10 out of Newark. His mother worked as a Boeing 757 and 767 fleet instructor for United, and she still teaches aviation.

After passing his checkride on Sunday, Ryan said he felt relieved and proud. “It’s a huge weight off my shoulders,” he said. Ryan has been accepted at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University where he will begin studying for his bachelor’s degree in aeronautics this fall. “I’ll see how it goes.” he said, “I would like to start my CFI (Certified Flight Instructor) ground school in the spring and complete CFI training at Epic in the summer.”

In addition to flying, Ryan loves swimming. He swam on the varsity swim team all 4 years of high school, serving as captain during his senior year. He made it to state competition in the 400 metres free relay and was a regional champion in the 500 metres free relay, placing 8th and holding the school record. He also made it to regionals in the 200 metres individual medley where he placed 6th. In the past two years, Ryan was selected for the Best of Volusia/Flager Preps, joining the first place team.

Epic Flight Academy is in its fourth year of offering aviation scholarships for high school students. In November, Epic will award a full $20,000 scholarship for a Private Pilot’s License and a $5,000 scholarship for flight training. Applications are due by October 18, 2019.

“Ryan was an exceptional scholarship winner,” said Danny Perna. “We are all incredibly proud of him and know he will achieve all his goals. In Ryan’s case, the sky really is the limit.”

Ryan Groel Passed CPL Checkride
Eighteen-year-old Ryan Groel stands next to his checkride plane after receiving his Commercial Pilot License.