Flying... my ultimate passion. There is just nothing like
hoping in an airplane, taking off to wherever and just cruising through the air. If I could do it for a living I would in a heartbeat. Some pilots say once your doing it professionally
that it loses some of that appeal and that the passion fades, and while I cannot say for sure I really do not think that would happen to me. Either way, I will not find out and I guess
that is ok with me since there is no chance of me losing my passion for flying as a private pilot.
My passion for flying started at a young age. I remember being outside with friends in my neighborhood and looking up every time I would hear a plane overhead. That continued when I
went on a class field trip to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and flew there commercially. It was my first time ever in a plane and I just remember that I loved it, even after a slight onset of
motion sickness which I got in the car too growing up. After that I did not fly anywhere until I was in high school and flew to NJ to see my best friend Erik who had moved there shortly
after his parents got divorced. I enjoyed the flights and did not get any motion sickness.
Not long after my mom arranged a special flight for me. An engineer that worked at Honeywell, where she worked at that time, actually flew to and from work! He agreed to take me with him
on his flight home and my parents planned to drive and get me. I was so grateful for this cause it was not a short drive. I arrived at the airport that day and met Rob for the first time.
Like almost everyone I have met in the pilot community Rob was a very nice guy and seemed to really enjoy showing me what he knew and how the plane worked etc. He started by showing me how
to do a pre-flight inspection and even had me help with the fuel strainer used to make sure the fuel is clear and does not have any water or contaminants in it. Once we were done outside
he went through the interior checklist and started up the plane. I just remember being so excited. He explained how the radio communciations worked and made the calls to the tower for
clearance. We taxied out to the runway and took off. I was absolutely having a blast and then he asked if I wanted the controls! I listened carefully and then took control of the plane and
flew us where we needed to go. When we got close to our destination Rob took over and landed the airplane, but as we pulled onto the taxiway he asked if I wanted to taxi it in. Of course I
said yes! That is when it happened... I was taxiing the airplane and got a little fast so I tapped the breaks and something went very wrong. The nose wheel of the aircraft popped! We
stopped the plane and rob shut it down as we could no taxi any further with no tire on the front. It was too late to call the FBO (Fixed Base Operator) to get a tow so we had to push it!
This was not a short distance and to top it off one of us had to hold the tail down to keep the nose gear off the ground and stear while pushing. We finally got the plane back to ramp where
he needed to park his plane and change the tire. I helped what little I could but we kept talking about aviation and before we knew it my parents were almost there to get me. We had planned
to get dinner with Rob's family but instead I ended up going home with my parents who got me dinner along the way. The best part about the whole thing was it did not deter me one bit from
wanting to learn to fly.
February 15, 2004. I remember my birthday that year because I made a decision that I was going to learn to fly. I started researching flight schools and options and then I made a phone call
to the Wings of Carolina Flying Club. A gentlemen by the name of Jimmy answered. Jimmy, I learned later, was an ex-Navy Pilot and Blue Angel! We talked about training and the club and he
encouraged me to come down and see the club and talk to people and I did. I joined the club that March and started my training in April of 2004. My instructor, Norm, was a young guy and
a lot of fun to talk to and fly with. I had a some set backs due to weather that summer but ultimately learned a lot and had fun doing it. The day of my solo arrived and I had a really
good flight with Norm. When we got done with our debreifing from the training flight Norm took my logbook as usual to log my time and sign off on it, but this time he did not stop there. As
he continued to write in my logbook he started to tell me that he was endorsing my logbook for my solo flight and that he wanted me to go out and do three full stop landings, three trips
around the airport pattern. Leading up to that day I was nervous at times thinking about it and really thought I would be nervous doing it, but then there I was on the tarmac walking toward
the aircraft I had just tied down from our training flight and it was excitement not nerves I was feeling. I did my pre-flgiht checklist around the outside of the aircraft, climbed in and
did my pre-startup checklist, got settled in and called "CLEAR!" (this is to notify anyone that might be walking near your aircraft that you are about to start it up). I turned the keep and
she fired right up, having still been warmed up from our previous flight. I kept my feet on the brakes and finished my checks. I listened to the AWOS (automated weather observation system)
at the airport. Sanford-Lee County Regional was its name back then, now named Raleigh Executive Jetport with an airport identifier of KTTA, and I made my first radio call, "Sanford-Lee
traffic Warrior 833 zero sierra taxiing to runway 3 Sanford-Lee". It is protocol to include the airport name at the beginning and end of a radio call to ensure other traffic hears it since it
is common to miss the begging word or two on radio calls. I was flying one of the club Warriors. The Warrior is a Piper Aircraft airplane that is commonly used for training and today I was
flying one of the clubs three Warriors with the tail number 8330S also known as 833 zero sierra or after initial contact just 3 zero sierra. Having made my taxi call, I looked around and
gently released the brakes. I taxied the aircraft to the runway hold-short markings (this is marked to keep you clear of the runway until it is time to go) and setup to do my run-up checks.
I checked my controls, I ran up the engines and checked the mags (magnetos), checked my instruments and was ready to go. One
more radio call, "Sanford-Lee traffic Warrior 3 zero sierra departing runway 3 Sandford-Lee", and I taxied onto the runway, got lined up and slowly applied full power. Everything was perfect,
I lifted off the runway and did my 3 trips around the pattern executing two good landings and a really good final landing to a full stop. As I taxied back to our club ramp I was feeling
such an exhilaration from the flight I just wanted to jump up and down. I got back to the ramp, shut down everything, tied up the aircraft and there was Norm waiting to congratulate me and to
engage in a tradition among pilots and their instructors. In American aviation lore, the traditional removal of a new pilot's shirt tail is a sign of the instructor's new confidence in his student
after successful completion of the 1st solo flight. In the days of tandem trainers, the student sat in the front seat, with the instructor behind. As there were often no radios in these early days
of aviation, the instructor would tug on the student pilot's shirttail to get his attention, and then yell in his ear. A successful first solo flight is an indication that the student can fly without
the instructor ("instructor-less" flight). Hence, there is no longer a need for the shirt tail, and it is cut off by the (often) proud instructor, and sometimes displayed as a trophy. This was a
very proud and happy day for me as I was truly on the path to getting my private pilot certificate.