Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

17-Year-Old's Future Plans Are Up in the Air

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

17-Year-Old's Future Plans Are Up in the Air

Article excerpt

Byline: Susan D. Brandenburg, Times-Union correspondent

Southsider Jonathan Clark took his first flight when he was 10 months old.

Born with billiary atresia, a severe liver disorder, he was transported by Lear Jet to Children's Medical Center in Dallas for a life-saving liver transplant.

Jonathan's a healthy, active 17-year-old Mandarin High School junior now.

"And he's never stopped flying," boasted his mother, Hester Clark.

"From the time he could talk, Jonathan begged to fly," remembers his dad, John Clark, executive director of the Jacksonville Airport Authority. "Every toy turned into an airplane. He would even make airplanes from paper clips."

At 9, Jonathan began taking flight lessons at Detroit Airport. Since the Clarks moved to Jacksonville in 1997, he has spent many hours in the air over Craig Airport in Arlington as a student of Sterling Flight Training.

"Jonathan's very good on the stick," said his instructor, Donald Doan. "He's a natural."

Last summer, Jonathan soloed for the first time at the Summer Flight Academy in Houston sponsored by the Black Pilots of America, an organization dedicated to training African-Americans in various types of aviation employment. The group's chapters, such as the Atlanta Raptors, Memphis Blackhawks and Bronze Eagles of Texas, are made up of commercial airline pilots and other aviation professionals who volunteer their expertise at the Summer Flight Academy.

In September, Jonathan completed his first Jacksonville solo flight at Sterling Flight Center.

Although Jonathan's father was an air traffic controller in the U.S. Air Force and has been employed in the field of aviation ever since, it was his mother who found the BPA Web site while surfing the Internet for aviation camps for her son.

"There was a similar camp at Embry Riddle University in Daytona," said Hester Clark, "but Jonathan liked the idea of flying to Houston. …

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