Thirteen Year Old Tests His Wings


Years before he is old enough to have a driver's license, 13-year-old Zane Wiles is already at the controls of a glider plane.

He piloted his first motorized glider plan in the summer of 2005.


Youthful pilot Zane Wiles of Payson learns to fly a motorized glider from flight instructor Russell Hustead.

Russell Hustead is Wiles' flight instructor.

"I have a pet sitting business," Wiles said. "Russ has two dogs, and at first he was paying me to take care of them. I asked him, instead of being paid, if he would take me up in a plane."

Wiles now has three flights to his credit.

"The motor isn't as loud as other airplanes," Wiles said, "and (the trainer) can shut it off and just glide."

"We take off with our engine," Hustead said, "and then turn off the engine, and we're like a glider. We have the long wings -- 54 foot wings."

Wiles took the controls on his first flight, he said. "I was scared that I was going to crash, but then it was really easy. (The instructor) started the plane and took it off, but he let me have my hand limp on the joystick so I could get a feel of it. The same thing for landing." Wiles looks forward to getting his license one day.

"When (the February Fire) was on the Rim, I flew up to it and then flew to Flagstaff, and then returned to Payson," Wiles said. "We had a good view of the fire. I like looking down on all the little houses and the highway, and watching the cars go down the highway."

Wiles pointed out that his instructor is in charge of the controls during take off and landing.

Wiles, who has been home schooled since the third grade, said his favorite subject is reading -- usually fiction or science fiction. He was nine months of age when his parents, Becky and Jeff Wiles, moved to Payson from the Valley. He has a brother, 11-year-old Reid, who is also a student pilot.

Aside from flying, Wiles has many interests and pastimes, including video games. From his love of movies, he has developed an interest in acting.

"I was in ‘The Hobbit' at the high school in about the third grade," he said. "It was made available to kids my age." He aspires to be a movie director one day, or perhaps a game designer.

"I'm in a drama class right now," he said. "It's over at the high school. It's for middle schoolers only. It's called Junior Thespians. We're working on a play called ‘Hillbilly Hankering.'

"I play Steve, who's part of a government team, who comes to buy land from the hillbillies." The play will be presented May 18, 19 and 20 at the high school.

Wiles was involved locally in skits at "Kids College" several years ago while in about the fifth grade.

He eagerly looks forward to a second summer at Friendly Pines Camp in Prescott, where he hopes to again become involved in drama, water skiing and mule and pony driving.

For those interested in sharing Wiles' flying experience, his trainer, Russell Hustead, is available for flight instruction or scenic rides.

"I usually instruct adult pilots," he said. "A pilot must be 14 to solo, and 16 to get a license to carry passengers." Hustead has been in Payson since 2000 and taught since 1994.

"I have an international reputation," the instructor said. "I have 3,000 hours in motor gliders alone. I have people come from all around the world to train here in the little town of Payson. I have 1,500 hours in airplanes, too."

For those who want a scenic ride, he said, "I take them soaring up to 9,000 or 10,000 feet. Then we turn off the engine and we glide back to the Payson Airport without using the engine again.

"It's quiet. You just have the wind going over the wings."

For scenic rides or instruction, call Russell Hustead, Sky King Soaring, on his cell phone, (602) 622-2257. For further information, his Web site is:

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