The Sky’s the Limit: Gary Smith’s Journey Above the Clouds

Photographed By: Gary Smith
“Daphne” Photographed By: Gary Smith

Have you ever felt the exhilarating rush of being suspended above the world, where the sky becomes your playground and the horizon stretches endlessly before you? 

Being up in the air is more than just a journey from one destination to another; it’s a symphony of freedom, where the constraints of gravity dissolve and the boundless expanse of the heavens becomes your domain.

Gary Smith, senior at Urbana High School by day, pilot by night. He is following in the footsteps of his family as he is “the fourth generation pilot. My great grandparents have been flying since the 1950s.” 


Smith knows he’s a “good pilot” as he has been flying since his “first day of middle school” when he was just 11 years old.

His passion for flying has always existed, it’s like a shot of adrenaline that runs through his veins. “It has always been something I have done. It is a calling” he says ever so passionately. 

“When I’m in the air flying around, I’m home.”

“There is just something peaceful and freeing about being several thousand feet above everybody else,” he mused, cherishing this sensation wholeheartedly. Imagine having your own plane, a vehicle of escape from life’s stresses, allowing you to whisk away to any destination at will. It sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?

Yet, flying comes with its share of risks. “It’s stressful,” he admitted, “you gotta know what you’re doing otherwise you could kill yourself or other people.” The joy of flying, therefore, carries a weighty responsibility.

For Smith, aviation has always been his envisioned career path. “I have never intended to take over the family business, I have always wanted to be an airline pilot,” he declared. That dream is now on the verge of realization. Post-graduation, Smith will dive straight into flying.

I had the privilege of meeting “Daphne,” Smith’s beloved aircraft. He graciously escorted my friend and me, offering a comprehensive tour of the plane. It was an enlightening experience, learning about the controls, flaps, fueling procedures, and even his chosen runway. Smith eagerly expressed his willingness to take us flying, even offering me the opportunity to pilot “Daphne,” under his guidance, of course.

His passion for flying was palpable in every word and expression. It’s not just a hobby; it’s an integral part of his life. Flying defines him and infuses him with purpose, evident in his passionate discussions. Such passion isn’t merely a pastime; it’s a lifeline, shaping his identity and driving his ambitions.

Inside “Daphne”

Smith’s favorite destination to travel to on his plane is his family farm. “We fly to our farm if we can.” It is in Virginia and it is a 1500 acre country retreat.

His dream destination to travel to the backcountry of Wyoming to do Bush Flying in which he lands in tight strips and remote areas and flies in the mountains.

“Daphne” on the famous runway

As Smith prepares to embark on his next chapter, he carries with him the memories of countless hours spent soaring through the clouds, the lessons learned from generations of family pilots, and the unwavering determination to chase his dreams.

And so, as “Daphne” stands ready to take flight once more, Gary Smith looks to the sky with a sense of anticipation and excitement, knowing that the sky truly is the limit for those who dare to dream.


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Arya Mahajan
Arya Mahajan, Reporter

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