Learning to fly started innocently enough for my son, Brady, and me. It was my wife’s fault.
Sitting at the breakfast table one morning, she suggested that Brady should take flying lessons because it would be a good confidence builder. Immediately, I responded that it would indeed be a good confidence builder for our son, and it would be good for me.
A half dozen friends had recently learned to fly, so I started questioning them and got the name of a flight instructor at a nearby airport. We were about to slip the surly bonds of earth. On January 10, 2009, we took our introductory flights at Corsicana Municipal Airport in a Cessna 152, a well-worn 152, with CFII Mark Jones in the right seat.
Much to our surprise, we were told to take the controls from the first takeoff, or at least we thought we were controlling the airplane. The perception is all that mattered. Being novices, little did we know that Mark was pushing right rudder and providing input on the yoke. We were flying and absolutely thrilled.
Diving into our new pursuit, we flew every weekend, weather permitting, and started learning new skills. Because Brady had several extra-curricular school activities, I was racking up more flying hours than he was. It did not make much difference, though, because he learned at a faster pace. Finally the big day for our solos, plural instead of singular, arrived. We were forewarned and knew about the shirttail practice and wore old shirts.
As noted, Brady learned at a faster pace. He soloed at just 16 hours and I did mine with 32 hours of instruction. Mark scheduled us the same day because he had never soloed a father and son at the same time. Brady went first and I watched. He made his third landing smiling from ear to ear, as did his father.
Work and school then got in the way and our flying time was frequently interrupted. Although we both wanted to earn our coveted licenses, a couple of years passed before the first one was issued by the FAA. In the meantime, we acquired a 1969 Piper Cherokee for a couple of good reasons: we no longer had to schedule the 152 and, erroneously, we believed that if we had our own airplane it would spur us to completing requirements for our licenses.
In early 2011, I finally took and passed my FAA written examination which turned out to be a largely wasted expense. Two years later, still without my private pilot’s license, I had to take the examination again and passed with a slightly better grade.
Brady went off to college at Oklahoma State University, and after a miserable semester as a computer science major we had a heart-to-heart talk about what he wanted to do for a living. He changed his major to aviation because he enjoys it so much and knocked out his private license in a few months. A friend and I flew the Cherokee up to OSU for the checkride and Brady, with a newly-minted private pilot license, flew us home.
A little over a year later, in June 2013, I earned my private license. Finally, I was free to go where I wanted and took a 350-mile cross country flight to a high school reunion a couple of weeks later, then flew up to Stillwater, OK to see Brady. Flying became even more exciting.
Brady has since earned his instrument rating and has started work on the commercial certificate. When he graduates college in a year, he will also hold multiengine and commercial ratings and a CFI certificate, and will be ready to embark on an aviation career.
Flying has become much more than just operating an airplane; it is something that my son and I share together. When he comes home for college breaks, we take the time to make local flights and hamburger runs. It is our uninterrupted time together and well worth the expense.