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Teunis Verheul Flies Solo

When Teunis Verheul of Great Falls decided to attend the military school Randolph-Macon Academy (R-MA) for the last two years of his high school career, he knew that it would change him. However, he didn’t know how drastic that change would be, or that he would discover his passion along the way. Teunis can't contain his smile after completing his first solo flight. Photo by R-MA Flight Director Laura Abraham.

Teunis described himself as having poor grades and being distracted by both his interest in girls and his hobby of being a disc jockey. “I woke up one morning and decided I’d had enough, and that I had to change my life and become a better person,” he said. “I hit the books, aced my [sophomore year] exams, and passed my classes. Then I signed myself up for military school. I felt like I had a great opportunity for success here.”

Teunis considered military schools because he had an interest in being in the military. He chose R-MA because it was close to his hometown of Great Falls, VA, he liked the opportunities available, and the flight program seemed interesting. Once he tried flight, he was hooked.

“There is nothing else in the world that make can me feel as good as I do when I’m flying a plane,” he said. “So I decided that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

By the time he tried flying as a junior this past fall, Teunis had already become involved in sports and he had raised his grades from the C average he had at Langley High School to a 3.9 at R-MA. Since students have to miss either class or sports to fly, adding flight to his schedule was a bit of a challenge.

“I tried to compromise and juggle everything,” he said. “I wanted to keep my grades high, which I have, and I wanted to stay involved in athletics, which I have. The time management was unbelievable. It’s priceless to me.”

Teunis achieved a key milestone in flight when he flew solo for the first time on May 22, 2014. 

“Going in I was very confident,” he said. “I had been expecting to solo the next week, but I was pleasantly surprised when the flight instructor [Ms. Laura Abraham] said, ‘Okay, I’m getting out. Good luck.’” His eyes lit up as he recalled the experience. “I was all right until I was airborne. Then I was shaking like a phone on silent. And I was sweating. The plane is so light that when someone gets out it’s a big difference. It goes so fast.”

Teunis did manage to calm himself down and complete three successful take-offs and landings at Front Royal-Warren County Airport that day. “I told myself, ‘Keep your cool. The air is where you’re comfortable,’” he said. 

After he was finished, Teunis described himself as “exhausted–excited, but physically exhausted from concentrating.” He hugged his flight instructor, called his mother to share the news, and once he returned to the R-MA campus he proceeded to thank everyone who had encouraged and motivated him over the past school year. 

With his first solo accomplished, Teunis has already set his sight on his next goal: earning a private pilot certification before graduating from Randolph-Macon Academy in 2015. 

Randolph-Macon Academy (R-MA), founded in 1892, is a college-preparatory, coeducational boarding school for students in grades 6 through 12.  Students in grades 9-12 participate in R-MA’s 91st Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), and have the opportunity to fly in a unique flight program.  R-MA is affiliated with the United Methodist Church and is located in Front Royal, Virginia.

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