In last season’s Flying Wild Alaska on the Discovery Channel, we were following the adventures of Ariel Tweto, wondering if she would be able to find time to hit the books and knock out her private pilot training.
Well, wonder no more. In the season (and series) finale that aired on July 20, Ariel took her checkride and passed. Of course, we didn’t learn that until the final five minutes of the episode. We had to suffer through much hand-wringing and consternation over the fact that Ariel’s examiner would be someone from the FAA rather than a designated pilot examiner. This being reality television, we also had to endure speculation that she might not pass the oral (she did) and that she might blow her short-field landing (she didn’t, but she did do a go-around).
In many ways, Ariel’s flight training experience mirrored everyone else’s. She had an extremely busy schedule, making it difficult to schedule her lessons; her flight instructor John Ponts left in mid-training. She switched aircraft a few times, so she had to familiarize herself with different systems and avionics each time. (At one point, she was training in a Cessna 207, which brings its own set of challenges to a student pilot.) Flight Training interviewed Ariel for the January 2012 issue, and you can read that interview here (and see a video of the whole gang at AirVenture 2011).
Some might argue that Ariel had a lot going for her as a student pilot–she grew up in a flying family and had well-maintained aircraft at her disposal. But she also grew up in Alaska, which probably dealt her more than a few weather delays. And it can’t have been easy for her to learn to fly while filming a reality TV show. Often while watching her struggle to land I was thankful no cable station ever wanted to videotape my flight lessons and broadcast them to a national audience. So here’s to Ariel, who eloquently summarized her hard-won flying privileges at the end of the episode: “I just need a runway, and then I have the whole world.”—Jill W. Tallman