Teen becomes youngest female to complete 3 solo flights

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — While most people are excited to get their driver’s licenses when they reach 16 years old, a Port St. Lucie teenager had higher aspirations.

Ava Shelly was gearing up to become the youngest female pilot to complete three solo flights.

At 10 years old, Shelly was already learning aviation through her late grandfather.

“He was an airline pilot, so for my 10 birthday, he got me a Discovery Flight, and ever since, I kind of stayed hooked,” she said.

Her grandfather was accomplished in the cockpit.

“He was also triple-rated, so he had his helicopter, glider and pilot’s license,” Shelly said.

She idolized her grandpa and wanted to become triple-rated, so at 13, she embarked on her aviation journey in his honor.

“I soloed the Cirrus SR20 and then I proceeded to do a check right on the glider Schweizer 2-33A,” she said. “I also soloed a helicopter.”


Instructor Chase Gregory discusses the work that Ava Shelly has put in to accomplish her goals at such a young age.

Now at 16, the aspiring pilot credits her grandfather for guiding her to her dream but thanks her mentor and instructor, Chase Gregory, for helping fulfill her dream.

“She came in really proficient,” Gregory said. “It wasn’t too much work. She kind of had a game plan coming in and had all the framework laid out in her mind, so it flowed pretty efficiently.”

Over the past six years, Shelly has completed more than 125 hours in multiple aircraft.

On her 16th birthday, she completed her first glider flight, making her the youngest woman in history to complete a glider, helicopter and powered flight.

“It was pretty amazing, honestly,” Shelly said. “I was nervous, but in a good way, because I was confident in what I was doing. I knew I was safe, and I knew everything was going to go well. I just still had those butterflies.”

“It’s amazing. It makes you feel really good,” Gregory said. “They gave me a really sweet card after she (landed). It was probably the sweetest card I’ve ever received.”

The future pilot and her mentor will return to the drawing board and think of what new accomplishments they can create together in the new year.