COURTLAND — When Lawrence County High School student Trent Morris saw the Blue Angels fly in Huntsville at age 7, he knew he wanted to get into aviation.
“For my 14th birthday, my grandpa took me to Pryor Field” at Regional Airport in Tanner “and got me a ride on an airplane to see how I’d like it,” he said. “Ever since then, I’ve stuck with it.”
That same year, Morris, now 16, started working at the Courtland Airport.
“His grandma (Carolyn Morris) called and asked if I would mentor a 14-year-old boy,” airport manager Jim Achord said. “I thought to myself, ‘Oh boy, this kid is probably in trouble all the time.
“He’s probably a problem child,’ and I said, ‘Just let him come out and we’ll see how things go.’ He came out, and he’s been a great help.”
Morris started by mowing the grass at the airport and now does sheet metal work and engine repairs.
When he turned 16 this month, he received his license to fly alone within 50 nautical miles of the airport. He celebrated with family and friends at a party at the airport, and by flying a post-World War II 1940s airplane and what Achord described as a more conventional plane.
“I was pretty nervous,” Morris said about the first time he flew alone. “Then I realized I had to fly the thing and land it.”
Achord said Morris’ skill is unique.
“It’s rare for somebody to be able to follow through like he does and be as good as he is,” he said. “He’s very talented naturally. Plus, he works at it.”
Achord and others see similarities in his mentoring of Morris and his own childhood. Like Morris, Achord was raised by a single mother and found a mentor, Stanley Cook, at Wentzville Airport west of St. Louis. Cook was about 47 when Achord started visiting the airport as a child, the same age Achord was when Morris showed up at the airport two years ago.
“I just walked up to the airport and started hanging out,” Achord said. “They just took me in, and it went from there, kind of like Trent.”
Achord seems to be “paying the favor back,” Carolyn Morris said.
“Jim just became a father figure to Trent,” she said. “His mother even said Trent is exactly like Jim.”
Achord said Morris can operate a variety of equipment, and is in a good position to take advantage of educational opportunities in north Alabama in aviation engineering.
This school year, Morris begins the high school co-op program, where he will work at the airport part of the school day.
“He gets a lot of first-hand experience,” Achord said. “We get a lot of flight-test stuff that comes out here from Redstone (Arsenal). He can operate pretty much any equipment that we have out here at the airport.”
Morris said his friends ask questions such as, “Can you take me up?’ or ‘How much does it cost?’ or ‘Have you done any aerobatics?’ “
He won’t be able to take friends on flights until he turns 17 and receives a private pilot license.
Morris said he plans to study aerospace engineering in college, and eventually buy his own airplane so he can fly whenever he wants.
“I’m extremely proud,” said his mother, Patty Morris. “He has wanted to fly ever since he was a kid.”
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