Never Too Young To Scratch That Flying Itch

At age 17, Ramona resident Joel Failla already knows his future will include flying airplanes. “When I was younger, my parents took me to airshows and I grew-up flying model planes,” said Failla. “I’ve been super-interested in everything about flying since I can remember.”

JF in Cockpit

On his 16th birthday, Feb. 16, 2021, Failla circled the Ramona County Airport on a solo flight. Age 16 is the youngest age allowable by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly solo. On March 15, 2022, he earned his private pilot’s license as a 17-year-old, the youngest age permitted by the FAA.

Now, he’s studying for a commercial pilot’s license, which can be received as early as age 18. With a commercial pilot’s license, Failla can earn income as a flight instructor.

He currently owns his own airplane, a Van’s RV-12, a two-seat, single-engine, low-wing aircraft. He also wants to volunteer for the Young Eagles, a national program that gives youth ages 8 to 17 an opportunity to go flying in a general aviation airplane. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to give back to younger kids and inspire them to fly,” Failla said.

Joel at 250 HoursFailla flies out of the Ramona Flight Training Center (FTC), which is based at the Chuck Hall Aviation facility at the Ramona Airport. He attends Mountain Valley Academy, an independent study program offered by the Ramona Unified School District. There’s a reason why he selected an independent study program. “In the sixth grade, I was diagnosed with dyslexia, so it takes me longer and I have to work harder on reading and writing.”

Failla credits his parents, Greg and Katrina Failla, with his flying accomplishments even though he has a disability. Both Greg and Katrina are tennis instructors at San Diego county Estates. “My parents taught me to have the right mindset and a strong work ethic,” he said. “I am determined to achieve my flying dreams. I will just need to persevere a little harder.”

Failla said he played tennis for 13 years, as well as golf during his middle school years, but admits that his passion for flying was stronger than pursuing sports. “I’m grateful that my parents, who love tennis a lot, have been very supportive for me to pursue my flying passions,” Failla said.

In addition, to Joel, the Failla family includes: daughter Jessica Failla, 24, a professional tennis player who has been ranked as a singles player as high as No. 464 worldwide in April 2022 by the International Tennis Federation; son Joshua Failla, 22, a cinematographer and filmmaker who operates his own production company; daughter Julia, 19, attend Liberty University Online and lives at home.

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