OSHKOSH – Ten-year-old Hakon Heggland probably knows more about airplanes than you do.
He reads three-volume flight manuals for fun and uses computer software to craft his own airplane designs.
“He’s a voracious consumer of aviation media,” said his dad, Kurt Heggland.
So a few months ago, when legendary pilot Sean Tucker called, Hakon was ready.
Tucker offered Hakon the chance to fly with him during the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture convention in Oshkosh. But first, Hakon would need to pass a test.
It was as if Hakon had been preparing for the call for his entire young life.
Though Hakon, of Sun Prairie, has been interested in planes for as long as he can remember, the 2013 AirVenture convention lit a fire for aviation. He remembers an “overwhelming” number of planes that year, ultralights, vintage planes and plenty else.
He joined EAA’s Young Eagles program, which aims to get kids interested in aviation. His membership led Tucker to call.
So when Tucker asked Hakon to write an essay describing three airplane maneuvers — a loop, a hammerhead and a slow roll — Hakon woke up early and worked late to finish the assignment.
Soon, Tucker responded: Hakon would be flying with him at EAA.
On Friday, Hakon suited up to fly with Tucker. He had expected a ride, but Tucker told him he might let Hakon take the controls in the air.
Meredith Heggland, Hakon’s mom, couldn’t help but be anxious and thrilled at the same time.
“My heart was pounding,” she said. “It was an awesome opportunity and Sean’s an amazing role model. I was nervous, and then Kurt reminded me that he’s with one of the best pilots in the world.”
Hakon didn’t know yet what his parents did; he was in for another surprise.
A few days before the flight, Hakon’s parents got another call, from Tucker’s staff. Two Blue Angels jets, which were at EAA that day for a performance, would fly alongside Tucker and Hakon.
They decided to keep the plan secret.
“We purposely didn’t tell Hakon,” Kurt Heggland said. “And he didn’t know the Blue Angels were going to be up there on the wing.”
After the flight, photographers who rode along told Hakon’s mom that Hakon broke into a huge grin as he saw the Blue Angels pull up on both sides of the plane.
“I didn’t find out until they were right on my wings,” Hakon said. “It was super awesome having some of the best pilots in the world right there.”
The Blues flew with Hakon for a full 20 minutes or so, performing maneuvers around the plane before peeling off. Then, Tucker let Hakon take the controls.
Over Lake Winnebago, Hakon pulled the loop he had described in his email to Tucker. Tucker told him to go fast, pushing the plane four G’s. Hakon even went faster, reaching six-and-a-half G’s.
If there was any doubt before that Hakon wanted to be a pilot, it’s gone now.
“It’s hard to maintain the level of awesomeness that he just experienced, so we’re a little worried about that,” Kurt Heggland said with a grin. “But we’re trying to just provide him the tools and opportunities to do what he wants to do.”