Head in the clouds: Sky is limit for Campbell teen with pilot's license

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With its nose lined up on the white centerline, everything is ready. 

“Downtown traffic. 757 Sierra Yankee. Departing runway 26, downtown traffic,” says the pilot.

The engine begins to roar. It speeds down the runway. Then suddenly—lift off. 

The climb begins.

Once at 3,500 feet, everything is quiet. Off in the distance, are the towering Great Smoky Mountains.

With the sun gleaming and engine roaring, the feeling is unexplainable as the plane soars over the busy life below.

This is a luxury 19-year-old Campbell County native, Cameron McGhee, frequently enjoys.

The 2011 Campbell County High graduate received his pilot’s license in February. 

“It took time—around a year—a lot of money, and passion,” he said. “It’s an indescribable feeling. I finally have something that I have wanted my whole life.”

At age 5, McGhee discovered his fascination for airplanes.  

He recalls seeing jet streams in the sky and calling them, “scratches.”

Soon he’ll be making scratches of his own.

McGhee plans to attend Middle Tennessee State University’s aviation program, to become a professional pilot.

“As a professional pilot, I can fly for airlines or corporations, and get to wear a cool uniform,” he said. 

McGhee is a member of an aviation club that owns three airplanes.
While he regularly flies the Cessna 152, he is able to fly most single-engine airplanes.

“It is so peaceful, there is no speed limit and you just feel free,” he said of the experience. 

Every spare moment, he can usually be found buzzing in the clouds. 

McGhee even had the thrill of taking his 89-year-old great-grandmother Gemima Hughett, of Oneida, for her first flight.

“It was my first time flying, but it won’t be my last,” Hughett said when they landed.

McGhee urges everyone to pursue their ambition. 
“I encourage anyone who has a dream to take the first step, because that’s all that it takes, it’s usually closer than you think,” he said. “If you would like to learn to fly, I would recommend joining a club, because it offers a cheaper rate.”

He estimates the average cost to be around $5,000, just to pilot a single engine.

“Even though the price is expensive, I didn’t look at it like that,” he said. “It may have slowed me down, but as the old saying goes where there is a will there is a way, and of course I had support from friends and family.”

Some say the sky’s the limit. But McGhee is living proof that life is limitless, when you’re always reaching for the clouds.