Carson Lobdell, rapidly ascending in a stunt plane with a trail of white smoke behind him, cocked his head and gave an enthusiastic thumbs up.
The 15-year-old Edgewood resident was off Thursday morning, preparing to perform aerobatics above the Seattle skyline under the guidance of Sean D. Tucker, aerobatic pilot and longtime Seafair Air Show participant.
“It was insane,” a grinning Lobdell said after landing. “I couldn’t imagine anything better.”
Lobdell took off from a Boeing Field runway in a two-seater Oracle Extra 300 L aircraft as part of Young Eagles, an international program that takes about 50,000 aspiring young pilots on flights around North America every year.
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He already is in an internship through Seafair, and was dubbed the 1,925,800th Young Eagle (with a certificate to prove it).
The pilot-in-training, who attends Raisbeck Aviation High School in Tukwila, performed a handful of stunts including a “hammerhead” stall turn and several loops and barrel rolls.
“You had a really good sense of where you were,” Tucker told the young pilot. “You got magic, baby!”
Without hesitation, Lobdell said his favorite part of the flight was the hammerhead. In flight, he said all that ran through his mind was “holy crap!”
“In a good way,” he said, laughing.
Does he plan to take any more aerobatic flights soon, should the opportunity arise?
“Yes,” the teen said emphatically. “It shouldn’t even be a question.”
Lobdell is in his sophomore year at Raisbeck, which he said accepts about 100 students a year.
Since he was 11, Lobdell has known he wanted to be a pilot in the military. He’s one of the only students in his class with plans to join the Navy, following similar footsteps of his father, who worked on A-6 Intruders during his time as a Marine.
Lobdell encourages anyone interested in flying to chase their dreams.
He acknowledged there are some challenges, especially financial, that could make it a difficult goal to achieve. But he said that shouldn’t keep people from trying.
“Paying for flight lessons can be expensive,” he said, adding that there are scholarships and programs that can make flying more affordable. “Don’t let that discourage you.”
Tucker echoed his remarks.
He said the Young Eagle program is a good start.
It focuses on STEM (an acronym for the academic disciplines science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and shows kids what it takes to achieve a career in aviation, he said.
“It’s all about STEM, but we call it fun,” Tucker said.
Tucker, the international chairman of the Young Eagles program with more than 25,000 flight hours, is in a class of high-profile past leaders.
The list includes Chuck Yeager, known for breaking the sound barrier, actors Cliff Robertson and Harrison Ford, and Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot famous for a successful emergency landing on New York’s Hudson River in 2009.
“I’m in very good company,” Tucker said. “They set me up for success.”
He said he expects big things from Thursday’s co-pilot.
“When you become a pilot, we’ll go flying again,” he told Lobdell. “And I think you’re going to become a pilot.”