This story first appeared in The Working Waterfront, published by the Island Institute.
Living on an island and relying on a ferry to get to the mainland and the wider world might inspire a young person to seek other modes of transportation. But for Jack Moore, 16, pursuing an airplane pilot license seems to spring from something more profound.
“It was kind of a fascination with all things flying,” he explained in a recent phone interview. “Even birds.”
Of course, flying in a small Penobscot Island Air plane with the late Kevin Waters at age 11 also fueled the passion.
“I was hooked from then on out,” Moore said.
Moore lives with his father, Terry Moore, on the island where he is a junior at Islesboro Central School, and also with mother, Avery Larned, at her home in Belfast.
He began taking flying lessons at age 15 from Dave Aldrich, a certified instructor, using Belfast’s airport as a base.
“I didn’t really have a goal, a plan,” Moore recalled, and when Aldrich traveled to Florida for the winter, “I was looking for something more permanent.” He found that at Penobscot Island Air’s flight school in Owls Head, which includes five weeks of classroom time.
“I started to realize I wanted to do this as a career, and get a license as quick as possible,” he explained. Now, he’s about 10 hours of flight time from earning a private pilot license.
Even though he doesn’t have that license yet, Moore has “soloed” many times. Those flights bring home the full nature of the experience.
“You can definitely appreciate the technical skill needed to fly the airplane,” he said, especially when the weather is rough. “Taking off is optional,” he said, invoking the pilot’s creed. “Landing is required.”
Yes, there is inherent danger, but “it’s really never the airplane that fails,” he asserted. Almost all crashes come from human error. Moore admits to having “messed up radio calls, using the wrong frequency,” and once flew a little too close to a jet.
“The most important thing you can have is leeway” for those moments, he said.
The joy comes in the “complete and utter freedom” of traversing the open sky, flying at 3,000 feet and passing beneath a flock of birds, he said.
The only time he confesses to being nervous in the air was on a glider flight with Dave Miramant, a former commercial airline pilot. In fact, Moore said, he was “very nervous” about relying on the vagaries of wind and updrafts to return to the airport.
He’s flown to and from Islesboro’s small paved airstrip and North Haven’s packed dirt strip, along with Owls Head and Belfast.
“It’s been kind of my dream to fly bush planes in Alaska,” he said, but that goal is evolving, and Moore is now thinking about colleges that offer aviation studies with the idea of working for a larger company. A commercial license would allow him to carry paying passengers, and given that a small plane might cost $50,000 to purchase, that revenue appeals to him.
Moore’s mother reported that her son has inspired her to begin her own flight training, and she shared photos she has taken from riding with her son over Eagle Island, where the family lived and worked for most of the children’s early years, running the mailboat.