If Jude Box is asked in school, “what did you do this summer,” the 14-year-old freshman will have a unique answer.
Jude, the son of John and Tara Box of Huntsville, has been working toward his pilot’s license or certificate for the past year.
Jude has been taking flying lessons this summer in Bentonville. Recently, he had a chance to land a plane at the Huntsville Municipal Airport.
Although he can get in his required flying hours and other instruction, Jude can’t legally fly solo until age 16, then get his pilot’s license at age 17.
Box needs about 35 hours of flying with an instructor, then five hours solo time after he turns 16. Then he will take a final exam.
“Then I do cross country,” he said recently at the Huntsville airport. “That’s like where you go off from one airport and just go down state a little. Then I take a final exam.”
Box can only take lessons if and when he has the money, according to Tara Box. He began by flying remote-controlled airplanes.
“When he saves his money, that’s the deal. He has to work and save his money to take his lessons,” Tara said. “He’s always had an interest with flying. He’s had those [remote-controlled planes] and they take them up to the airport and fly them. He’s been doing that a couple of years.”
Tara Box, owner of Countryside Assisted Living in Huntsville, said her son is mature beyond his 14 years.
“He’s really not like a kid. He’s more like a grownup,” she said. “He’s been raised here at Countryside, so he’s always taken an interest to adults and he met this guy up there flying airplanes, and so he kind of took up with him and they go up there and fly.”
Jude also has taken to the skies with pilots who fly out of the Huntsville Municipal Airport.
“He’s been up with a couple of the guys at the airport in their airplanes. He took an interest,” Tara said. “We’ve never had any pilots in the family, he’s just always wanted to fly.”
Jude takes lessons in a Cessna 150, a single-engine plane. His mom said she has accepted her son’s desire to fly.
“I would rather he had his feet on solid ground, but that’s his decision,” she said. “He’s thinking of maybe going into the Air Force or something where he can get lots of hours, and then he wants to fly international planes.”
Jude plays basketball for the Eagles and next will play baseball, as well. He’s been a pitcher for a summer team in Bentonville the past four years.
To make money for lessons, Jude said he does work on the farm, from gathering eggs and working in his parents’ hay field to mowing.
“We’re kind of in hay season now. He has to con people to take him to lessons,” Tara said. “He mows, he does everything. Anything you want him to do, he’ll do it if he thinks he can earn money.”
Earlier this summer, when Jude went for a lesson, his instructor told him they were going to land in Huntsville. The instructor didn’t know that was Jude’s home town.
“Him landing was a surprise. The teacher said they were going to land in Huntsville,” Tara said. “His instructor said he’s going to land here and he didn’t know that Jude was from Huntsville. It was pretty neat because Jude didn’t know we were going to be there.
“His grandma had taken him to lessons, so she called me and said, ‘Jude will be there in 30 minutes to practice his landing.’ I thought that was pretty neat.”
It was the first time Tara had seen her son land a plane.
“He did it all by himself,” Tara said.
Jude said, “When I was coming around to the final [approach], I just saw all my family down there waving.”
Jude said he has about 20 hours left in his training, though he can fly more if he chooses.
“I can do as much as I want. I can’t really get my license until I’m 17, but I can solo whenever I’m 16,” he said.
Jude said his interest in aviation began at an early age.
“Whenever I was little, my dad took me to museums and to all these airports and we’d just watch airplanes land,” he said. “Then I started flying RC (remote-controlled) airplanes up here about three years ago. I just decided I wanted to become a pilot. I got the opportunity to take lessons about a year ago.”
Jude said there is something special about being in the air.
“Just seeing how small the earth is whenever you’re at 10,000 feet up,” he said. “It’s always been a dream to fly above the clouds.”
Flying is not without risks. Two weeks ago in Bentonville, Jude hit “ground effect,” which caused the plane to tip over and forced him to land on one tire. Once, while taxing before a flight, he did a required magneto check. When he flipped the switch to the left and it failed, that caused the engine to shut off. The plane had to be towed back to a hangar.
Jude said he would like to fly a Cessna185, a bit larger than the 150. He also would like to take helicopter lessons and maybe learn on a tail-dragger plane such as a Piper Cub. When he’s older, he’s already got his career mapped out.
“I plan on flying Delta for a little bit, then whenever I get enough hours, I’m going to go and fly for cargo, for UPS,” he said.