Number One Son finally took his checkride last month and got his Private Pilot’s License. It’s been a long journey to the finish line. Connor started his flying career sitting on my lap at three years old with his tiny hands on the yoke. Right away I could tell that he was a natural. He immediately grasped how to make the plane go up and down, left and right by moving the yoke. To him it was just a really big toy that was fun to play with. And while I was impressed at how quickly he got the hang of I was also concerned with his complete lack of fear.
Fast forward to this spring and Connor was finally able to knuckle now and finish the last piece of the puzzle and take the FAA written exam. I say last piece of the puzzle because three years ago he’d finished all the flight requirements to take the checkride but couldn’t be bothered enough to study for the written exam. OK, I’ll give him a little slack because it was just before his Guard unit was deployed to the middle east and he wanted to spend time drinking beer with his buddies instead of studying. He promised to study in his off time but apparently the Army doesn’t give their Black Hawk crew chiefs lots of time off.
But the boy (now a man) made it home safely and finished up his PPL. Now the real learning starts. I checked him out in our Cessna 182 jump plane and he immediately started taking his friends for airplane rides. Pleasure flying is all well and good but I prefer flying with a mission to accomplish. I started out having Connor fly me in the 182 to book presentation at an airport 150 miles away. Of course when it was time to leave he discovered that the plane had a flat nose wheel so he scrambled to find an alternate aircraft. Any other 182 at the local flight school to rent? No? How about one of their 172s? All booked up. When I showed up at the airport he was all set to go, in a Cessna 150. Not as fast as the 182 but good enough. Welcome to aviation. It was a nice summer evening flight to the EAA presentation followed by a night flight home. The fact that the had to ushis headlamp because the 150 had almost no panel lights just made the trip more educational.
His next two missions were two hour cross country trips to a skydiving school in Chicago to ferry a jump pilot back and forth and then it was time to teach him how to fly skydivers. Now normally I don’t check out a new pilot until he has his commercial pilot’s license and about 500 hours of flight time but I’m the boss so exceptions can be made.
I sat Connor down and explained to him how to drop human meat bombs without killing anybody or damaging the plane. Then some of the jumpmasters who were sitting around drew straws to see who got to be on Connor’s first load and up we went. With all the seats removed, the jumpers sat on the floor and I knelt behind the pilot’s seat so I could see what Connor was doing and give instruction as needed.
The ride to altitude was quick and soon the door was open and the three jumpers climbed out on the wing strut and left. I stayed in the plane to show Connor how to close the jump door by slipping the plane and when I was sure he had it I jumped too.
It was a great day.