Bret Harte student, 16, hits the heights

February 28, 2002 12:00 am

By SUNNY LOCKWOOD

While most kids look forward to getting a drivers license when they turn 16, Tyler Orsow celebrated his 16th birthday flying solo in four different airplanes.

The Bret Harte High School sophomore with braces on his teeth began his birthday Wednesday taking off and landing a Super Cub with floats on the Spencer Ranch pond.

A couple of hours later at Calaveras County Airport, he took off and landed his Sky Raider, a plane he spent two-and-a-half years building. During the day he also took off and landed a PA-12 Super Cruiser and a Piper J-5.

His mother, Terry Campbell, owner of NorCal Aviation, invited 85 friends and family members to Tylers birthday celebration at the airport. People came from as far away as Sonoma to watch the young man pilot the various planes. After the runway excitement, all gathered for a birthday barbecue at one of the hangars.

Hes the airport kid for Angels Camp, said family friend Ron Price, who drove from Sonoma to watch Tyler make his solo runs.

Tylers 17-foot-long, 431-pound Sky Raider was the hit of the party. Its 28-foot wingspan and 60 horsepower motor gives it an easy cruising speed of about 75, he said.

I saw it fly at an air show in 1999 and it performed so nicely I decided I wanted to fly it, he said.

Tyler made an agreement with Bud Field, an adult who shares Tylers love of flying. Field would help fund the Sky Raider kit purchase at $23,000 and Tyler would build the plane.

Hes wanted to build that plane since he was 12, Field said, watching Tyler show off his Sky Raider to his birthday celebration crowd. We went to an air show and the guys who manufacture the kit had a display there. Tyler saw it fly and fell in love with it.

Tyler said hes paid back much of the cost of his plane from money he earns washing planes at the airport.

Calaveras County Airport Manager Kathy Zancanella watched Tyler take off and land repeatedly.

When you turn 16, you can solo and get your solo permit. That allows you to fly by yourself, she said. He can get his license when hes 17.