Tom Haines

An offer I can’t refuse

June 23, 2008 by Thomas B. Haines, Editor in Chief

A beautiful Sunday afternoon and I’m buried in my home office grinding through financial spreadsheets attempting to keep this place operating in the black. In walks my 15-year-old daughter Lauren. “Dad, let’s go flying.” I’m stunned. She really has been bitten by this aviation bug. She had her first flight lesson three days ago. Her lesson on this Sunday has been canceled because of a maintenance problem with the airplane she was to fly and she’s bummed. Needing an aviation fix, she’s come to her only other source–Dad.

I hesitate for about a nanosecond and we’re off for the airport. She’s been around airplanes her whole life and until lately has expressed only occasional interest in flying. Lately she’s been following me through on the walkaround of our Bonanza, asking good questions, and wanting to fly. Always the confident one, after her first lesson she came home and declared: “I did the takeoff and landing mostly by myself. It doesn’t seem that hard.” Oh, boy.

But on this Sunday, I make it easy for her and handle the takeoffs and landings, but throw the yoke over to her for some straight and level and a few steep turns. She does well. I’m proud and she’s pleased.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

Suggestions on how to keep a teenager engaged and focused on flying?

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3 Responses to “An offer I can’t refuse”

  1. Sam Says:

    Tom, for some reason you struck a chord in me. I’ve been thinking about this off and on since you posted it. I raised two great kids (neither one interested in aviation) and I don’t really know how it happened. Here’s what I’ve been thinking:

    Don’t try too hard.
    Interests ebb and flow, and many times you don’t actually know how much interest there is.
    Her interest may be driven by thoughts and feelings you can’t comprehend – she’s herself, she’s not you.
    Encourage her to take on the challenges she wonders if she can handle.
    Encourage her to talk about how she feels. Listen and listen well because she is giving a better answer to your question than anyone else could.
    Tell her how you feel about her interest. The clearer you can be the better, even if she doesn’t seem to listen.
    Support her when she stumbles, praise her when she truly excels.
    Offer opportunities to participate.
    Learn to accept whatever level of participation she’s capable of putting in.
    Unless she asks you, let her CFI do the formal training and critiques.

    And first of all, If you haven’t already, tell her you so much want to make sure you don’t mess this up for her you’ve asked 415,000+ pilots for advice.

    Good luck to you, as that’s what it seems happened to me. I hope she becomes the woman she sees herself being.

  2. Paul Thomas Says:

    Treasure every moment and give thanks for the opportunity to share something you both love!

    I have been away from actively flying for the past seventeen years. Putting three daughters through parochial school and college, throw in two weddings and you can see there isn’t any money left for flying. A few weeks ago I passed a long awaited BFR and my youngest daughter, now twenty-three was with me! I wouldn’t have traded that moment for anything.

    Two of my daughters have always wanted to learn to fly and since I used to be a CFI they want me to be the one to teach them. I guess I better delay retirement, work some more overtime and get busy with getting that instructor rating back. This is another one of those “Dad” moments I truly don’t want to miss. The other is taking my Grandson for his first flight in a small airplane!

    Paul Thomas
    Valparaiso, Indiana

  3. Amy Laboda Says:

    Great to hear about your problem! I sent mine (daughter) to glider camp in Vermont, and i think she enjoyed the social scene and the camping out as much as the flying.

    If I remember my own experience, my parents found me a good CFI and pretty much stayed out of it, except for letting me sit right seat in the Cessna 210 and handle the controls from time to time. I think the toughest part of the experience was that once you solo at 16, you still have a year to kill before you actually earn a certificate. Let her go as far as she can in that time, even if it means picking up some instrument and commercial skills before she has her private certificate.

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