published Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Football player Rhett Morgan to fly solo for 16th birthday

  • photo
    Rhett Morgan, an East Hamilton High School football player, plans to try to get his pilot solo license today — his 16th birthday.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

There will be no sleeping in this morning for East Hamilton football player Rhett Morgan, although local high schools are in the second week of a state-mandated no-contact period.

While many of his teammates are still enjoying sweet dreams and lazy days before football workouts resume Monday, Morgan plans to be up early and taking to the sky this morning.

He turned 16 today, and while he's looking forward to getting his automobile driver's license, he'll first make his first solo flight with hopes of becoming a certified pilot.

"I'm more excited about flying," Morgan said. "There probably aren't that many 16-year-olds out there certified to fly."

When asked if flying or driving was safer, the 6-foot-2, 250-pound defensive lineman replied, "It depends on how good a pilot you are."

He had planned to solo in both a fixed-wing plane and a helicopter today at the earliest age allowed by FAA regulations. The helicopter he was to certify in is out of commission, though, so that will have to wait.

As of Monday, he expected to get off the ground at 7 a.m. for the first of three takeoffs and landings as part of his certification.

"He's been flying for 15-plus years," said Spencer Morgan, Rhett's father, a veteran flyer and a certified pilot instructor. "I started him as a baby, literally. Flying has been my career, and he's been fortunate enough to fly along.

"I went and got certified in B-25s three years ago and had Rhett with me. Right after that we got to meet Dick Cole, who was Jimmy Doolittle's copilot on the bombing flight to Tokyo."

Spencer Morgan is qualified to fly most fixed-wing aircraft, including 737s, plus many helicopters.

Once Rhett has successfully soloed, his dad will cut his shirttail -- an old tradition -- before they head to Bonny Oaks Drive to get the driver's license.

"I think he'll probably be more comfortable in the airplane," Spencer said.

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765.

about Ward Gossett...

Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...

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