If you’ve been reading our AOPA eBrief messages here in early November, you’ve no doubt seen our informal poll asking pilots if they’ve ever given someone their first flight in a general aviation aircraft. As did about 96% of other respondents, I too was able to answer “yes”. And as I did, I recalled with fondness both the first and latest GA flights I’ve shared with someone else.
Like many newly minted private pilots, my first passenger was a family member- in my case it was my dad, on the very same day I took my checkride. To that day, he had never before flown in an aircraft without a flight attendant. Yet bravely, he joined me, his low time, twenty year old son, in the right seat of a well-worn Cessna 172 that I had just been checked out in literally minutes before. On that December day in 1988, my logbook shows a whopping total of 5.7 hours of flying on my first day as a private pilot- 1.5 for my private pilot checkride, 1.3 hours for a checkout in “Nancy Tango”, our flight school’s venerable Cessna 172, and 2.9 hours of flying with my dad.
Although I don’t recall much about that flight, we flew cross country from Erie/Tri-County Airport, northeast of Denver (then 48V, now KEIK) through what was then the Denver TCA to Pueblo, Colorado and back. I remember how proud I was to finally be a pilot and ecstatic that my dad was with me on this first flight. I remember how proud my dad was that he flew with me first, and how cool flying over downtown Denver in a GA aircraft was. In new pilot cool, however, all I thought to note was “First flight after checkride- dad’s first flight”. In today’s world,where even the most mundane daily events seem to be relentlessly documented and shared, it seems strange that I didn’t think to take at least a couple of pictures that momentous day.
Fast forward over 23 years. This past May, I again was able to again relish the joy of giving someone their first flight in a GA aircraft- in this case five year old Aidan from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Aidan’s dad works with my wife, and Aidan’s family was soon headed for Disney World via the airlines. Aidan had never been on an airplane, and his parents wanted him to see one up close first, even if it wasn’t a brand new 737.
So on that beautiful Sunday morning last May, my wife and I headed from Felts Field (KSFF) in Spokane over to Coeur d’Alene (KCOE) in a Cessna 172 (ironcially of the exact same vintage as the one I flew my dad) to provide young Aidan and his family (right) with their first glimpse of general aviation, his family’s first flights in a general aviation aircraft, and Aidan’s first flight in an aircraft- ever.
First, I flew Aidan’s mom and his ten year old sister around the Coeur d’Alene area, enjoying views of Lake Coeur d’Alene, Hayden Lake, Mount Spokane and the beauty that is northern Idaho. It was smooth and clear- a perfect spring day for flying in the northern Rockies. Next up was Aidan and his dad. As much as I wanted Aidan to be able to sit up front, the 172′s weight and balance (and comfort) dictated that his 6’4″ dad occupy the right seat. With Aidan sitting up on his booster seat and buckled into the back, the incessant happy chatter over the intercom was
infectious. He giggled and shrieked and pointed out everything he saw as we taxiied out and took off, finding his house and school in short order. As we flew over Lake Coeur d’Alene, he marveled incessantly about the lake and the boats and the interstate and the bridges and the houses. And then, for a few startling seconds, he abuptly became quiet.
Concerned that he was suddenly not enjoying himself, I started to turn around to look at him, when he stated quite enthusiastically, but in a somewhat deeper and reverent tone “I think I can see the future from up here!”
And that, from a five year old who had never been in an airplane before, is probably the most prophetic comment I’ve ever heard from anyone about the joys of general aviation.
So help spread that joy, and introduce someone to GA. Take that person for their first flight so that they too can see the future from up here.