During Labor Day weekend, I took up my youngest passenger, Sara Moore, a sixth grader in Reedy, W.Va., a rural farming community where I grew up. My dad had made sure that he put plenty of sick sacks in the pilot side pouch of his Cessna 172… just in case.
After walking Sara through a pre-flight, briefly explaining how the Cessna 172 worked, and talking through the passenger briefing and runup, I had one final piece of advice: Let me know if her stomach started to feel queasy.
Once we were about 300 feet in the air on the climbout from Jackson County Airport, soaring above the trees and the snaking Ohio River, Sara looked out at the clear blue sky—zero haze and 50 miles visibility—and then back at me, with her brown eyes wide open and a grin spreading from ear to ear, and said, “It feels good!” I knew I wouldn’t have to reach for those sick sacks on this flight!
Sara recorded video and photographed the West Virginia foothills, her house, and the elementary school. Then, I asked if she wanted to fly. After a bit of hesitation, I offered to fly with her for a while until she felt comfortable. A few climbs, descents, and gentle banks later, I slowly moved my hand from the control wheel unbeknownst to her.
She’s a natural pilot! Soon, I was taking pictures of her flying straight and level and letting her navigate toward the airport, using a powerplant in the distance as her aiming point. She flew for about 10 minute before asking me to fly so that she could take more pictures. After landing, she gave me a Silly Bandz—in the shape of a jet, no less—as a thank you for the flight. (Now I feel really cool—they are the most popular trading item among students.)
When asked the favorite part of her flight, she was speechless—understandable for seeing your home and town from the air for the first time.
I’ve always loved flying, building camaraderie with fellow pilots, and tackling new certificates and ratings. But nothing compares to the feeling of giving someone his or her first experience in the air or in a GA airplane. Flying is truly a gift, and those first flights are some of the best gifts I’ve ever given to people: It feels good!