Young pilot helps other kids' dreams take wing

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At an age when most kids are still making paper airplanes, Jessica Miller was getting behind the controls of the real thing.

"You can just feel the power of the plane as you take off, it's just exhilarating, the feeling that you're alone, you're by yourself, your in the plane, you're in control," says Miller.

And at the Youth Aviation Adventure on Saturday, this 18-year-old pilot from Minnesota is sharing her passion for planes with kids here in the Chippewa Valley.

“They all just want to experience the same thrill of flight that any pilot knows," says Miller.

It's a thrill Miller has known since childhood. She started flying with her dad and grandpa, took lessons at 15, did her first solo flight on her 16th birthday, and got her private pilot’s license at 17.

"I spend money on flying and I see that as education for myself, because I want to be a pilot," says Miller.

The St. Cloud State University freshman says she's had plenty of learning experiences, including a crash landing a few years ago. But, that didn't keep her grounded for long.

"Flying really gives you a sense of responsibility. You know that you're in charge of the plane. You're in charge of the people in the plane," says Miller.

Veteran flight instructors say her attitude impresses other pilots.

“Very enthusiastic obviously, and just unbelievable credentials for an 18-year-old," says Dave Ochsenbauer of Ashland.

In between school, work, and racing competitively, Miller says she'll keep flying high to reach her goals.

"I’m looking forward to my certified flight instructor, because I’d really like to teach other students, other kids how to fly," says Miller.

And some might say, today she took her first steps at inspiring more kids to do the same.

Miller took seventh place and was the youngest competitor in this year's national Air Race Classic, an all-female airplane race started back in the 1930's by Amelia Earhardt.

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