Joni M. Fisher

Love at First Flight

Six-year-old Braylon Faulkner fell in love with airplanes on his first flight. Traveling with his mother Michelle Faulkner and grandmother Carol Faulkner-Davis in September 2012 from Orlando to Providence, Rhode Island. His excitement came to the attention of the Southwest Airlines pilot who invited him to the cockpit before the flight.

boy in cockpit of commercial jet

Braylon is introduced to flying by a Southwest Airlines pilot.

His father Brian Faulkner works in business development for a large healthcare company and Michelle was a licensed private investigator in Florida. They encouraged Braylon’s interest in flying. Later that year while traveling in Hiawassee, Georgia, they booked a helicopter ride with Pilot Ron Carroll.

From there Braylon’s fascination continued. He was living in Winter Haven, Florida and he would get excited whenever he passed the airport. Winter Haven airport is also the base of operations for Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base. Braylon enjoyed dining at the restaurant on the field to watch planes land and take off.

SEAPLANES

His grandmother Carol was a neighbor of Jon Brown, so she asked him if Braylon was old enough to take a ride in a seaplane. In August of 2013, Braylon flew in a Piper Cub on floats. In the fall, he enjoyed a tour of Fantasy of Flight Museum.

boy climbs into red baron model

Braylon visits Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, Florida.

In January 2014, Braylon took a helicopter ride in Sevierville, Tennessee. He took more flights in the seaplanes through Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base and developed a friendship with Instructor Ben Shipps. His parents gave Braylon a logbook to track his flights. Braylon asked for flights to celebrate birthdays and holidays.

Giana shows Braylon her grandfather’s RV-6 at Winter Haven Airport.

Braylon’s grandmother Carol, introduced Braylon to the granddaughter of a pilot friend. Giana Griner, a year older than Braylon, shares his passion for airplanes. They had playdates at the Winter Haven Airport restaurant and watch planes. They shared a flight in a Cessna 210.

boy and flight instructor stand in front of Piper Cub on floats for seaplane lesson.

Braylon with flight instructor Ben Shipps.

When the Faulkners moved to Texas for a better job opportunity, Braylon returned to the seaplane base for a flight with Ben. Though he has family in Winter Haven, Braylon understood he would not be back as often as he wanted to be. Last November, just before the family moved, Braylon flew again with his favorite instructor.

Michelle Faulkner said, “We found a local airport here in Texas. Our church was loading supplies for missionaries, and Braylon wanted to help. They said they’d call us whenever they are loading so Braylon can help.”

LOGBOOK

Braylon has logged 8.25 hours since getting his logbook. With such an intense interest from such a young age, Braylon demonstrates the passion of a future pilot.


This article first appeared in General Aviation News in 2017.

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