To the untrained eye, the options looked bleak. At the right were steep mountains sprinkled with cell phone towers and electrical lines. To the left a creeping marine layer blanketed the beaches. And even from the vantage of 4,500 feet, the landing strip was nowhere in sight.
“The hardest part about flying — finding the airport,” the pilot said, prompting one of his two passengers to tightly grip her seat.
But with aplomb that would have made Hudson River crash lander Sully Sullenberger proud, 16-year-old Nick Meyer adjusted the altitude of the Piper Warrior — imagine a Volkswagen Beetle with wings — radioed the tower and touched down at the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport as scheduled.
“Every flight is a different flight,” the Burbank High School junior said. “It is never the same thing.”
Nick became hooked on flying five years ago when his then-middle school teacher Stacie Vournas — herself a licensed pilot — took him on a birthday flight. Soon after, he began tuning into traffic control tower frequencies via the Internet. He invested in a flight simulator software program for his computer.