By Dave Lopez, Daily Breeze writer. Reprinted with permission.
Reza Birjandi has a passion for flying.
And so, after piloting cargo planes and giving lessons on the side, he decided to teach others full time.
During the five years he’s operated his own flight school out of Torrance Municipal Airport — Pacific Skies Aviation — he’s shared his love with some surprising people: kids barely old enough to drive.
Though most of his students are 30 and older, Birjandi has taught some as young as 10. Among his young students is 16-year-old Sean O’Brien, who has already flown on his own to destinations such as San Diego and Santa Maria.
“It’s not as hard as it seems,” Sean said. “Once you learn what everything means, it’s fun. You feel free. No one is holding you back.”
Even though the minimum age to obtain a pilot’s license is 17, Birjandi believes the younger generation has an advantage that others did not — video games — which he said help kids develop hand-eye coordination and the ability to multitask.
Sean agrees, recalling games he played on his iPod and his computer before enrolling in the flight school.
“It gave me a basic understanding of how everything works,” he said.
Because Sean is not old enough to earn his license yet, his instructor, Chris Garland, must sign off for him before he flies, verifying that all preflight preparations have been accomplished.
“We’re pretty detailed,” Garland said. “We know Sean’s going to be safe.”
Classes are rigorous. In addition to the 70 hours most students spend flying before they can get their license, they put in another 30 to 35 hours in a class environment…