The 17-year-old said he’s always had a passion for aviation.
“My dad was a pilot so I grew up around it,” he said, adding his father also became licensed at age 17.
“I set a goal a long time ago that I wanted to be a pilot.”
For his senior project, Honea, who also serves as senior class president and Sequoyah’s delegate for the Cherokee County Board of Education, prepared a report on the last two stages of getting his license: the cross-country flight, which requires the pilot to fly a distance of at least 50 miles, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s written examination. Honea spent 75 hours flying an early 1960s-model Cessna 172 with his father and instructor, Richard Honea, to as far away as Anderson, S.C., and countless more hours studying for the final test.
“It’s very hard to have to study math and science and then have to study aviation for a written test,” he said. “But I’m definitely glad I did it. It was worth all the effort. I kind of missed out on a lot of things with my friends, but it was definitely worth it.”
The work really paid off when he took his first flight on his own, he said.
“It was like a new freedom to be able to fly by yourself,” he said.
An athlete in both wrestling and football, for which he was named one of Gridiron Club’s top academic achievers this year, Honea said he plans to go to Middle Georgia College and eventually transfer to the University of Georgia.
The selection of MGC has a lot to do with the school being known for its aviation program, he said. Living on campus would give him access to earn more ratings on his pilot license to allow him to fly multi-engine planes.
But Honea said he’d like to major in political science and eventually join the military rather than focus his studies on aviation.
“I’d like to be a politician some day,” he said.
This summer, Honea will be logging more hours in the sky to advance to the next rating. Though he became hooked on the hobby by his father, who owns a couple of planes housed at S&S Aviation, Honea said his older sister and brother never picked up the same passion.
His mother, Lisa Honea, has grown tolerant of the pastime.
“She’s a little bit nervous about it but she’s gotten used to it,” he said.
Richard Honea said he’s proud of his son for managing a busy schedule of school and sports along with flying.
“He has an outstanding work ethic and ability to stay on track and juggle multiple tasks,” he said. “We really had a great time doing it together.”
Just a week after getting his license, Honea flew some friends around for the first time. They’ve considered taking a vacation via airplane, he said.
But physical constraints might halt that plan.
“On this plane,” he said of the Cessna, pointing to its small cabin, “I couldn’t get four of my football player friends in there. Maybe three of them.”