Never too old to fly

Ted Brother’s Success Story is just a little bit different than our usual wonderful solo and checkride photos that turn up on our Facebook wall. For one thing, Ted is in his 70s. For another, he started out learning to fly in a taildragger. Here’s Ted’s story in its entirety.—Ed.

“I’ve taught 10- and 12-year-olds to fly, so yes, I can teach you.”

With these words Paul Santopietro started my odyssey on Aug. 14, 2012, when he took me on as a student at Katama Airfield (1B2) at Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. I was not 10 or 12; I was 76 years and two months old when I started my dream—to learn to fly.

Katama is a National Heritage grass field, and Paul’s 1975 Model 7KCAB Citabria N8680V was the airplane. The eight to 10 hours normally reserved to learn how to taxi and maneuver a taildragger on the ground soon turned into 12 to 15 hours. Learning to get my septuagenarian body into and out of this tandem two-seater proved to be equally as challenging.

My introduction to flying lasted until the end of September when Nancy and I headed to Naples, Fla., for the winter. With 18 hours of dual under my belt

student pilot solos Cessna 172 at age 77

Ted Brother (left) with CFI Skip Bentley after soloing the Cessna 172 in Fort Myers.

I joined the Fort Myers Flying Club at Page Field (KFMY) as a student pilot and transitioned to a Cessna 172S. Skip Bentley now had the oldest student he ever taught, and the flying club had its oldest student member ever.On May 15, 2013, just 23 days before celebrating my seventy-seventh birthday, I soloed N3512Q at La Belle Municipal (X14) in La
Belle, Fla. After eight months of Class D airspace, with tower, ATIS ,
ground, and jet traffic to contend with, I looked forward to my return to the
grass at Katama and the stick and rudder of Paul’s taildragger.

On July 31, 2013, I soloed N8080V and received my tailwheel endorsement.

Student pilot solos Citabria at age 77.

Brother soloed this Citabria in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. He’s shown with CFI Paul Santopietro.

In November 2013 I passed the FAA knowledge exam. After six days of patient instruction by David Abramson at Pompano Airpark in Pompano Beach Florida (KPMP), and just 70 days before my seventy-eighth birthday, he scheduled my checkride.The oral went well, but the check ride was discontinued because of weather. After two agonizing weeks of waiting I returned to KPMP, passed the checkride, and received my certificate, 57 days before my seventy-eighth birthday. As I approach my seventy-ninth year having fulfilled a lifelong dream, I am thankful for my wife Nancy’s support, for the great instructors I have had, and for the wonderful new and interesting acquaintances and friends I have made through this flying experience. I have no dream of getting my ATP; I just want to fly in clear skies and have the opportunity to buy a few $100 hamburgers—well, maybe an SES endorsement might be next.—Ted Brother

Are you interested in learning to fly? As Ted knows, it’s never too late to start! Sign up for a free student trial membership in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and receive six issues of Flight Training magazine plus lots of training tools and resources for student pilots. Click here for more information.

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  • Jim Walker

    Hi; As a retired Flt Engr and pilot, I would like to submit a true story of airline flying. PLease advise.

  • Jim Walker


  • jtallman

    Hi Jim, we would be happy to take a look at your article. You can send it directly to me (Jill Tallman) at Thanks!

  • Wes Felty

    I was younger. I solo’ed the day after my 69th birthday in sub-freezing weather in an open cockpit. BRRR!

    I passed my checkride on the first try.

    I fly every day that the weather is reasonable out of AWO at the age of 70. I have 345 hour and 1,736 landings … all that I walked away from. (I do a lot of Touch and Goes). I have a camera on my wing tip and use it to analyze all of my landings and to fill in my log book.

  • Wes Felty

    I forgot to say that I love to fly cross country and I’ve used AOPA’s many training resources from day one. They have made me a much better pilot and much more safety conscious. I’ve been in the WINGS program also from the beginning but can’t “graduate” since my DPE won’t sign me off for the flying part.

  • Doug

    That’s an awesome story, Ted. Way to go…!

  • Waner Del Rosario

    As a fellow member of the Fort Myers Flying Club, let me just say Congratulations Ted.

    When I found out I literally jumped for joy!

    Happy Flying!

  • Bruce B

    Outstanding Ted! Inspirational.

  • Mike Hoff

    What, no photo credit?

  • jtallman

    Ted did not send us a photo credit, Mike. If he provides one, we’re happy to put it up.

  • Don Imrie

    Hi Ted and fellow aviation nuts, I flew with Paul (I think) at American Aero Services open door day in 2008 on a pleasure flight over New Smyrna Beach Florida. Has Paul moved from Fla to Martha’s Vineyard? Regards to all aviation nuts on both sides of the Atlantic. Don