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April Liu '26 sitting in the cockpit with the door open ready to take her first solo flight as a pilot

April Liu loves birds, physics, and the exact biology of how they fly. She always has.

The Providence Day sophomore wanted to be an ornithologist in Middle School - a person who’s an expert on birds - and at the same time, her mom was working toward her private pilot license.

Sophomore April Liu '26 taking her first solo flight as a pilot

“Flying seemed like the natural next step,” April says.

She tested flying with an instructor in the cockpit of a Cessna 172 before she was a teenager. And for her 16th birthday earlier this month, when she became legally eligible to fly solo, April flew for about 50 minutes in a Cirrus SR22 Turbo.

Her mom says that with that solo flight, she also mastered four takeoffs and landings, and she became one of the youngest pilots to achieve a solo flight.

“Flying really is like riding a big roller coaster you can control,” April says. “I like the thrill of it, especially maneuvers and landings. [Flying solo] was really fun. Honestly, it wasn’t too different being on the plane alone versus with an instructor, and I’d practiced a ton leading up to it, so I wasn’t nervous at all.”

For mom, April’s solo flight was an “incredibly proud moment.”

“It's a testament to her hard work, confidence, and the courage to pursue her passions without letting stereotypes limit her possibilities,” Jane says. “She has an innate curiosity and adventurous spirit. Witnessing the world from above, the blend of technical skill with the sheer beauty of flight shows her a unique way to combine her passions for engineering, art, and the vastness of the skies.”

Jane says 80% of people who start flight training drop out, and female pilots only made up about 4.9% of the field in 2022. As of 2021, there were more than 18,500 student pilots between the ages of 16 and 19, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. That’s a decline since 2019, when there were 21,229 student pilots.

“Her choice underlines the seriousness of her commitment and the level of challenge she's willing to engage with,” Jane says.

Since April started flying, she has spent hours flying, including holidays when she trains on Christmas and New Year’s days.

Regardless of her devotion, she’s still unsure if she wants to make piloting an aircraft a career.

“I’ve been looking into engineering, either civil or mechanical, and aerospace is definitely on the table there, too,” April says. “If anything, I think I would enjoy flying airshows and such on the side.”

Mom says her daughter’s passions are boundless.

“While she dreams of flying high-performance aircraft, her aspirations are broad,” Jane says. “She's a pilot at heart, whether or not she pursues it as a career. I hope flying takes her to new heights, offering her the freedom to explore her vast array of interests and wherever her ambitions might lead her.”