“Maybe we should wait until tomorrow to leave,” my mom inquired as she looked at the weather forecast on her phone. I noted that her voice was very nervous sounding.” No, it will be fine once we get to a high altitude,” my dad said reassuringly. The engine sputtered and then roared, then we started to roll onto the taxiway. I could feel the tension inside the cabin; everyone seemed a bit uneasy.
It may have been falling apart – the cardboard and paper ripping at the seams and the ink slowly fading from its pages – but within it dwelled the memories and accomplishments of a young man striving to become a pilot. All of this I failed to realize as my grandpa’s logbook passed from his outstretched hands to mine just a few months before his death. Looking back, I wish I had explored the stories hidden within.
I had just taken off from Aurora, Missouri (2H2) heading toward Grove, Oklahoma (KGMJ), flying at an altitude of 4,500 feet. I was a student pilot, and this was my first solo cross-country experience. Everything seemed to be a pretty standard day; the weather was nice. The one big mistake I made I had no way of knowing or preparing for, but it happened all the same.
This article was the winning entry in the inaugural Richard Collins Writing Prize for Young Pilots. Over 60 young pilots sent in articles for consideration, and after reading them all our distinguished panel of judges (including Richard’s son) selected Emma Hutchinson as the winner of the $2,500 award. We hope you’ll agree that this moving article is a fine tribute to a great writer and pilot.
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 takeoff was great and my landing was spectacular; “a greaser” as Dan would say. “Two more like that,” said Dan, “and I’ll let you fly solo!” My heart pounded. I knew I was close to my first solo, but now, with both parents right there with me? To say I was excited would have been a terrible understatement.
“We need more young pilots, like you,” is a statement that I find myself hearing quite often. I typically hear this coming from older pilots and I completely agree with them. But a lot of the older pilots that I know got into aviation because they were either in the military, or they grew up around an airport. Today, these are not usually the top reasons why people get involved in aviation.
My first long-distance flight in a single-engine aircraft began exactly like every other mission we’ve ever flown: with my worrying about the weather and Dad squinting at the radar image on his iPad, assuring me that we would be fine as long as we got in the air within an hour. I call our trips missions because we rarely fly without a purpose.
People often ask me about my interest in commercial aviation, and in return, I explain my lack of interest in commercial aviation. I explain my love for general aviation, which is more than a hobby, it’s a family. My aviation journey started when I was just 10 years old, a week after meeting a flight instructor at the Lynchburg Regional Air Show.
I started out as a boy who was scared to death of flying and ended up falling in love with it while going to see a sick grandfather who, coincidentally, had once been a private pilot and aircraft mechanic in the Navy. There are many names for such instances of luck and happenstance: fate, destiny, whatever you want to call it. The word that happens to come to my mind is serendipity.
Every flight is exhilarating, but not every flight will be logged as a lifelong memory. This was one of those flights I will remember forever. Grandma nervously hugged us goodbye as Grandpa, Dad, and I squeezed into the compact Skyhawk.
Attention all pilots under 23 years of age. Your voice needs to be heard as part of the general aviation community. It’s not just multi-thousand hour pilots who have wisdom to share and stories to tell. You are the next generation of pilots. For you, the good old days are right now! Air Facts is sponsoring a Young Pilots Writers’ Challenge. Here are the details.
It had been just four months since I climbed out of the plane with the beaming smile on my face that proved I was certified private pilot. At age 17, it truly seemed unreal to me. Nevertheless, today was the day, and a beautiful day at that, for the longest cross country flight of my young career.
In the first article from our “Young Guns” series, meet Andrea Tomaselli, a young pilot from Venezuela who followed his dreams and made captain on the MD-11 at just 27. He shares his story and what he learned about succeeding in a turbulent aviation industry.
In our latest Young Pilot article, high school senior Ben Conlin shares a memorable flight up the Hudson River. He says the flight was “a fresh breath to flight and reminder of why many pilots began flying in the first place.”
There is no history of pilots in my family. I always have to explain myself in a very detailed way to my family about what I want to do in the future. There are all of these pilots who have dads or moms who are pilots as well, but I am alone.
It is very easy as a pilot to become enthralled with becoming a more advanced aviator and completely lose touch with everything that called you to aviation in the first place. It doesn’t take very long either. For me it happened in about 120 hours. I had fallen out of love.
It wasn’t long after I got my pilot’s license that I encountered my first emergency landing. It was a day I will never forget. My instructor, who is also a great friend of mine, was going to teach me on how to fly a CJ-6 Nanchang, a high performance complex aircraft.
In the third and final article in this series, 18-year old pilot Kyle Libby shares the story of his checkride, including some great tips for student pilots. He also explains how earning his license changed his perspective.
In the latest article from our Young Pilots series, 17-year old Michael Janik shares the flight that ignited a passion for aviation, and how he found a way to pay for flight training.