By Dan Arritt     11/17/2016

Michael Holbrook doesn’t remember when he first became mesmerized with flying, but he remembers his first flight.

He was about 5 years old when his father, Floyd, handed him the transmitter for a small remote-controlled airplane. The experience didn’t last long, as the plane nose-dived into the ground and broke into pieces a few minutes later, but Holbrook was hooked.

Fast forward 12 years and Holbrook is still flying airplanes, only now he’s sitting behind the controls, gliding his craft thousands of feet in the air and taking advantage of its usefulness.

Holbrook faced a time crunch last month after he was named Homecoming King at Servite and was expected to attend a Friday night football game in which the Homecoming Queen from Servite’s sister school, Rosary Academy, would be announced.

Holbrook is also one of the top cross-country runners for the Friars and was counted on to be at a meet the following day near Fresno.

Holbrook knew it would look bad if he didn’t take part in the halftime Homecoming ceremony, and he also didn’t want to leave his cross-country team short-handed.

That’s when his father spoke up.

“My dad said, ‘You got your pilot’s license for a reason buddy. Why don’t you just fly us up there?’” Holbrook said.

So Holbrook checked the weather and mapped out a flight plan. He and his parents departed the football game after halftime, drove to Fullerton Airport and flew to Fresno in just over an hour. They checked into the hotel near midnight and Holbrook had a good night’s rest before joining his team at the starting line the next day.

“By the grace of God, it all worked out,” he said.

Holbrook has only had his pilot’s license since Sept. 4. He began his official training in February, took his first solo flight in May and his first long-distance solo flight in the middle of last summer.

“I’ll never forget the feeling of leaving the runway alone, knowing I had three hours ahead of me,” Holbrook said.

Holbrook flew from Fullerton to Apple Valley Airport, then another leg to General William J. Fox Airfield in Lancaster. He then followed the Cajon Pass down from the high desert and into the Inland Empire, then further west to Fullerton to conclude the trip.

“That was a big day for me,” he said. “When I landed on the ground at Fullerton, boy, did it feel good.”

Holbrook wasn’t permitted to fly with passengers other than his instructor until he earned his license in September.

Since then, he’s not only taken up his parents, twin brother Matthew and a few close friends, but even a classmate who contacted him about his interest in becoming a pilot as well.

“I love to share my passion for aviation,” Holbrook said. “Having my license is so much better because I get to fly with people.”

Holbrook has also earned his high-performance endorsement since getting his license, which allowed him to switch from a 180-horsepower Cessna 172 to a 310-horsepower Cirrus SR22, which is larger, features better instruments and a more advanced autopilot.

Holbrook’s development as a pilot did cause him to sacrifice some cross-country training over the summer, but the Friars were still strong enough to take first last month in the small schools division at the Orange County Championships. His newfound responsibilities have certainly helped him in other ways.

“It’s taught me how to prioritize,” he said. “I think I’m not just a better pilot, but better person in general because of flying.”