Noah Eudy was scared.
He doesn’t like most heights.
In 2010, the 12-year-old Hilton Head boy was in no mood to go with his brothers David, 15, and Adam, 17, on an instructional flight in a small, single-engine Cessna 172 plane.
“They pretty much had to drag me to put me in the plane,” recalled Eudy, who back then stood about a foot shorter than the wing of the plane.
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His brothers had taken four or five “O-flights,” or orientation flights, before. That didn’t comfort Eudy, however, as the plane took off from Hilton Head Island Airport.
They pretty much had to drag me to put me in the plane.
At 2,500 feet, his brothers, under the watchful eye of a licensed instructor, simulated engine failures and practiced “power-off stalls” in which the plane stops in the sky above the patchwork of earth below them.
“I’m freaking out,” Eudy remembered. “Like, ‘Oh my God, we’re going to die.’”
When it was his turn to fly, he let the instructor handle the plane as much as possible, not wanting to screw anything up. Plus, he wasn’t even tall enough to see over the plane’s dashboard, so he was flying blind.
But Eudy said he felt something different after he took over the flight controls.
“When I finally got to fly, ever since then, it’s been ‘I need to fly more,’” he said.
His mother, Crystall Eudy, recalls her son stepping off the plane that December day with a grin and wanting to go up again.
Now 18, Eudy is still generally afraid of heights. But that fear, he said, disappears when he’s in the cockpit.
And he’s already made recent history as a Civil Air Patrol member in South Carolina.
Eudy is the first person in the Palmetto State in at least the last 20 years to have acquired a private pilot’s license through the Civil Air Patrol program, and is the first ever from the squadron on Hilton Head, according to officials at the Low Country Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol.
Cadet Colonel Eudy, who earned his pilot’s license on June 23, is the cadet commander of the Low Country Composite Squadron.
When I finally got to fly, ever since then, it’s been ‘I need to fly more.’
Eudy has been home-schooled his entire life, which he said allowed him more flexibility with flying time. One must be at least 17 years old to get a private pilot’s license, according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. Eudy was 18 when he earned his.
Originally from Charlotte, Eudy has lived on Hilton Head since age 8 with his parents, Mark, who owns a landscaping company, and Crystall, a part-time nurse at Hilton Head Heart. Besides his older brothers, he has two younger twin siblings, Levi and Lydia. His entire family is involved with the CAP, but he’s the only licensed pilot.
His father is deputy commander of the Low Country Composite Squadron. His mother is the squadron commander for the 67-member Hilton Head group.
The Civil Air Patrol is the official civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, formed during World War II to protect the nation’s shores from invading German U-boats, according to the patrol’s website. Made up of “citizen airmen” committed to serving the country, the CAP today carries out emergency service missions when needed, the site says.
From 1997 to 2014, the South Carolina “wing,” or division, of the CAP had not allowed cadets to train to become pilots, mainly because of a lack of instructors and equipment, and the CAP having other priorities, said Lt. Col. Chris Peterson, the South Carolina Wing vice commander. Eudy is the first cadet in South Carolina in at least 20 years to accomplish this feat, he said.
Peterson said he is unaware of any South Carolina cadet before Eudy earning a private pilot’s license through the Civil Air Patrol, though he added it’s possible given the lack of records before 1997.
Eudy, a cadet since 2010, was selected with another cadet in 2015 to train at Walterboro in Colleton County after pilot training was permitted again. But their plane broke down after they each took just one flight, and Eudy said he didn’t train again until the fall of 2016 when he paired up with Capt. Brian Turrisi, a member of the Low Country Composite Squadron.
A retired physician and flight instructor at Hilton Head Flyers, Turrisi described his partnership with Eudy as a “match made in heaven.”
Civil Air Patrol instructors are unpaid volunteers. Turrisi said it’s often difficult for cadets to find someone willing to sacrifice dozens of hours to train them.
Aside from that, a cadet must pay for airplane maintenance and fuel. Eudy earned two CAP scholarships totaling $2,500; his parents paid another $1,000 to assist with his expenses.
Although he didn’t resume his pilot training until 2016, Eudy remained active in the cadet program. Among other things, he said he has participated in five National Cadet Special Activities, which are like summer camps held around the country for cadets, based on their rank and achievement.
As part of those events, he attended an international air cadet exchange, which allowed him to visit New Zealand; and two glider academies, which would later prove useful in his pilot training.
Gliders are planes without engines. A rope attaches a glider to another plane, and that plane pulls the glider up into the air. When the desired altitude is reached, the rope is removed, and the plane returns to the runway while the glider pilot does his or her best to guide the engine-less plane to the ground.
On his first solo glider flight in 2014 out of Warm Springs, Georgia, Eudy said he went up to 2,500 feet — more than twice as high as normal — when his craft was released. He said he performed stalls and turns, noting he had the longest solo flight of that academy.
Anybody who wants to learn how to fly, they could get a much faster feel if they took a glider flight.
“Anybody who wants to learn how to fly, they could get a much faster feel if they took a glider flight,” Turrisi said.
Eudy said there were setbacks when he resumed his pilot training in 2016. He said the CAP-owned Cessna 172 he and Turrisi used had frequent mechanical problems that had to be dealt with, and the runway at the small Hilton Head Island Airport was often closed. The damage to the island caused by Hurricane Matthew also delayed the cadet’s progress.
But Eudy said he eventually racked up 50 hours of flight time, which included 20 required hours with an instructor and 10 mandatory hours of flying alone. To earn his pilot’s license, he also had to pass a written exam and an in-flight test.
During the hour-long flight test, a Federal Aviation Administration examiner asked him what he would do if he lost oil pressure or if the engine battery died, Eudy said. At one point, he said the examiner told him that his engine had failed and he had to navigate to the closest airport — without GPS.
“You have to be calm and actually fly the airplane instead of panic,” Eudy said.
Eudy said when he made it back to the ground, the examiner shook his hand and told him he had passed.
When you look at the big picture, very few kids get their pilot’s license at the same time they’re graduating high school.
“I think it’s a very big deal,” said his proud mother, Crystall. “When you look at the big picture, very few kids get their pilot’s license at the same time they’re graduating high school. Knowing he’s the first of the Civil Air Patrol in South Carolina is quite an honor.”
In the fall, Eudy plans to attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, where he will enroll just one credit shy of being a junior after taking classes at the Technical College of the Lowcountry.
By the time he’s 21, Eudy said he plans to have a master’s degree in aviation business administration.
His dreams are big: He hopes one day to own his own airport or airline.
It’s a tall climb for someone who doesn’t like to be high up — except when he has a cockpit view.
“You can go wherever you want,” Eudy said. “It’s nice to be away from all the panic on the ground.”
Later this year, Eudy is set to receive the Spaatz Award, the highest honor awarded nationally in the Civil Air Patrol, based on excellence in leadership, character, fitness and aerospace education, according to the Civil Air Patrol’s website. The website says only about five out of 1,000 — or half a percent — of cadets will achieve this honor.