Vintage Instructor THE
BY Steve Krog, CFI
Flying is a family affair I recently had the distinct pleasure of flying with two individuals who have truly inspired me. They are a father and son who began taking flight lessons together about a month ago. Jordan, the 16-year-old son, approached his father, Ben, early in the summer and mentioned that he would really like to learn to fly. No one else on either side of the family is a pilot nor has a career in anything aviationrelated. The interest in and urge to fly is something Jordan developed on his own. When Jordan made his father aware of his interests, his father gave it some thought before responding. It got him thinking about flying airplanes. Then he realized that he, too, had a passion for learning to fly but had always put the thought out of his mind, as no one around him expressed an interest in aviation. Now that he had a 16-year-old son showing interest, he let his imagination take over, allowing the desire to rise to the surface. After some thought Ben talked with Jordan, and they agreed on a plan. If Jordan was going to learn to fly, so was Dad! He feared that his son might change his mind. We all know (and most of us have experienced) that from the age of 14 to about 25, we think of our dad as “dumber than a box of rocks.” I know I went through that phase, but about the time I reached my mid-20s I realized my dad was a lot smarter than I had ever given him credit for. In later years before my dad passed, I used to kid him a lot about having gone to night school while I was away seeking fame and fortune, because he was so much smarter than when I had left home at age 17. Ben and Jordan’s relationship was on much better footing, but still Ben didn’t want his son to either feel like he was competing with him or trying to be a good buddy rather than a father. Jordan had no problem with his father wanting to learn to fly. In fact, it is working quite well. When Ben and Jordan came to me and expressed their interest in learning to fly, it brought a smile to my face. After spending a little time one-on-one with each of them, it was apparent that both had a strong desire to master flight. Flight lessons began. Jordan would fly in the late afternoon, and Ben would fly after work. I’m not sure who 4 OCTOBER 2012
was enjoying the challenges of flight more. The weather was cooperative, and the flight schedule allowed them to progress at about the same rate. Each and every flight was sheer pleasure for me as both were eager to learn, but Ben was a bit more talkative. He would frequently comment during a lesson about the beauty and wonderment of flying an airplane. Ben has stated a number of times that he wished he had pursued his dream of learning to fly 20 years earlier.
Progress for both continued, and soon we were working in the traffic pattern, learning the intricacies of making takeoffs and landings in a Piper J-3 Cub. Finally, about one week ago the day came, but the wind was quite unpredictable during Jordanâ€™s flight lesson. He learned a lot during that flight; reading the windsock after turning onto the final approach, adjusting power when the wind velocity changed, and being prepared to lower a wing and add opposite rudder when a gust would want to move the plane off the centerline during level-off, flare, and touchdown. After the lesson was over Jordan had to leave, unfortunately. Usually he would wait and watch his dad fly. When Ben and I got ready for our flight that evening, the wind finally settled down to a near calm condition. I smiled to myself as we taxied to the runway. I knew that if Ben could demonstrate his ability to take off and land as well today as he had done the day before, he was going to solo today. Our first takeoff and landing was near perfect. The second time around, the traffic pattern was even better. As we rolled to a stop, I told him I wanted to see another takeoff and landing as nice as the first two. The third was even better. As we were rolling out, I asked Ben to taxi
back to the end of the runway. About halfway back I asked him to stop for a moment, and at that point I told him it was time for me to get out. He first looked at me in awe, and then an ear-to-ear grin crossed his face. I told him to make three takeoffs and landings, then taxi back to the hangar. When Ben arrived back at the hangar and killed the engine, he sat in the airplane for a minute with the big-
Jordan and Ben .
VINTAGE AIRPLANE 5
gest grin I’ve seen in a long time. All of the local airport folks had been alerted, so as soon as he had his feet firmly planted on the ground, the entire airport crew gave him a round of applause. All shook his hand, welcoming him into the exclusive club of having flown solo in an airplane. Photos were taken as I “neatly ” removed the back of his shirt with a very dull scissors followed by a second round of applause. Refreshments were brought out, and we all toasted Ben on his accomplishment. Later I told Ben that Jordan was ready to solo, so we agreed to swap their flight times for the next day. Jordan would fly in the evening when the wind was calmer. The next evening arrived, and Jordan and I taxied to the favored runway. The flight was a repeat of the previous day. After three near-perfect takeoffs and landings, I had Jordan taxi to the edge of the runway. After he stopped, I told him I was getting out, and his grin was even wider than his father’s. Unbeknownst to Jordan, his mother and sister had been alerted to the probable solo flight. They all remained out of Jordan’s sight, but the cameras with telephoto lenses were capturing every one of his takeoffs and landings.
Jordan completed his three takeoffs and landings flawlessly. As he arrived back at the hangar, the whole airport crew was once again assembled and rewarded his first solo flight with applause and shouts of congratulations. The dull scissors was again brought out, and photos were taken of this once-in-a-lifetime event. The grill was then lit, and we all celebrated the father-son duo and their achievement of solo flight with brats and refreshments. I’m not sure who was prouder—father, son, or me! I always find it personally rewarding when I meet the new first-solo pilot at the conclusion of the flight. The first words they utter are usually, “Wow, this thing really jumps in the air and climbs out without you in it. And, it floats forever on the landing.” Each will then tell you about every landing, how it felt, and what they did wrong. It is truly fun to watch their expressions and hand and body movements as they detail each landing. No matter our age, nor how long we have each been flying, there is one thing we all have in common: the memory of our individual first solo flight! It is something that we will never forget. What a pleasure it is to see and help others experience their first flight!
The grill was then lit, and we all celebrated the father-son duo and their achievement of solo flight with brats and refreshments.
6 OCTOBER 2012