Along the way I’ve been trying to let Steve fly as much as he wants, and he’s not disappointing. So far I’ve been in the airplane for about 6.5 hours and have had my hands on the controls for about 0.5 of that. I flew through the SFRA corridor because being off by a mile means losing my certificate, and I flew the approach into Wilmington yesterday because we were being vectored. Obviously I’ve helped on the landings, but otherwise, Steve has been my autopilot.
And I have to say he’s a natural. After about half-an-hour he was within private pilot straight-and-level standards, and he seems to inherently understand what’s going on. But I’ve kept my hands close to the controls for every takeoff and landing, which means he’s probably never felt like he was actually doing those. So last night after we arrived in Dillon, we had enough light for one trip around the pattern. I put my hands in my lap, and off we went.
I talked him through the pattern, our first full one of the trip, and then rattled off speeds and controls commands on final. We flared a bit high, he brought it closer to the runway, and with that I put two fingers on the front of the stick to make sure we kept the nose off. We touched down with a soft plunk. He had flown a takeoff and about 90 percent of the landing. As soon as we got out he called his wife and excitedly told her what we had just done. It was a great moment, and I was happy to have been a part of it.
To seal his passion for aviation, I presented Steve with his first logbook in front of the marker where man first took flight at Kitty Hawk. Yeah, I laid it on thick, but I hope it’s enough to get him in the air for good.
Guest blogger Ian J. Twombly and Motor Week’s Steve Chupnick are Team Wilbur, traveling to Sun’n'Fun for AOPA’s Fun to Fly Road and Runway Rally.–Jill W. Tallman