I’ve never been able to actually put a finger on the target with this question. We all have our individual reasons, but I’m sure most of us have the same unexplainable reason that we can’t seem to spit out when talking to our non-pilot friends, resulting in some disgusted faces as we beat around the bush.
Obviously there are exceptions, but I would say that most of us either had the aviation bug since we were kids or we took a ride in an airplane that forever had us looking up. For me I just always had the bug. As long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to fly.
My first actual sense of flight started in the remote control world. Learning the basics of what makes aircraft fly. I’ll never forget building that first balsa wood airplane in the shop with my dad and watching it fly for the first time. This only strengthened my love for flight. My first actual small plane ride was in a Cub or a Champ; I was too little to remember. That first sense of flight and controlling something that operates in three dimensions was definitely something that changes you.
From there I didn’t fly again until 7th grade. My family was tired of hearing me talk aviation constantly, so they let me schedule a flight lesson. Sadly, for them, I kept talking more! That first actual flight in that Cessna 172, N6506D (I’m still taking lessons in that plane), influenced me more than anything else in my life. On top of this, there was no better place to do it than my home, Flathead Valley, Montana.
I got to fly the entire flight, excluding landing. That afternoon, I got my first logbook entry signed and a love that will hopefully never end. After that first year, I logged a couple more hours here and there but nothing major. However, the summer between 8th grade and freshman year of high school, I flew a ton. Takeoffs, steep-turns, landings, everything.
I continued learning how to fly until the end of my freshman year. That’s when the light bulb clicked on. Flying isn’t just going out and having a couple of good laughs while pulling some G’s in a steep turn (minor for the acro guys, but for me this was major). If I wanted to fly, I would have to get down to the nitty-gritty and learn everything I could.
So now, as a sophomore, I’m in the King Schools PPL ground school. Over the past summer, I learned more than I ever have in that period of time working at the local airport (KGPI). Thanks to the local FBO, I had the opportunity to be the first high school student they ever hired. I gladly took the job. During my time with them, I learned how to fuel Embraer and Airbus airliners as well as marshal aircraft, and some very important people skills working with private aircraft.
With this, I was able to meet a wide variety of people. One day you met a celebrity and just a few minutes later you met a couple in a Tri-Pacer flying to California to go house hunting. I’m a people person and found this part of the job fascinating. I think I even have the basis for some studies on humans and how they interact, but that’s another subject.
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Great story Aaron, no doubt you’ll get an avalanche of replies from aviators young and old. Mine was very similar to yours, I always had an interest in airplanes, and took my first lesson at 14, and soloed on my 16th birthday. Now 35 years later, after a full career in the Air Force as a navigator on B-52s, C-130s and a small classified spy plane I am finally getting my CFI. I hope to give back to the young guns just a little of what I’ve been blessed to enjoyed for the bulk of my life.
Oh, Aaron, I am sure your story will cause many readers a few minutes of pleasant nostalgia. We all have our “origin stories,” and yours is well told. Please keep up your intention to “learn everything” you can. Airplanes and aviation can be an all-consuming passion, and a darned good one. Oh, and keep writing, too.
Joel, when Did You Know? – I was nine years old in 1943, when I knew I wanted to be in Aviation… and I have no idea why! My first paying job (~25 cents/hour) was when I was 11 years old in 1947, washing airplanes at the remaining airport of five airports originally on Staten Island, part of New York City. I received a ride in a seaplane that could take-off and land on water as well as land. So, that began My Adventure in Aviation that has lasted for more than sixty (60) years! (Air Force flying B-47’s, Mass. ANG flying F-86H’s, and flying , and owning a Cessna 182) While I no longer pilot aircraft I
mentor and ‘chat’ about many, MANY Aviation topics with youngsters and ‘oldsters’
quite often. Finally, I would like to have a conversion with Aaron to talk about my Aviation experiences, and what Aaron should expect! So, PLEASE help me do that!