It started innocently enough with a text message from Marcus, a high school classmate. His 11-year-old son Cole attended an aviation camp at the Hiller Aviation Museum last Christmas and really took to the idea of aviation.
Marcus, knowing that I’ve been a pilot since high school, asked if I could take his son flying next time they visited the Pacific Northwest.
Are you kidding? Pilots rarely need an excuse to go flying, but taking a young one up for their first flight in a small airplane is a real treat.
On the agreed upon day, we met at Pierce County/Thun Field Airport (KPLU) in Puyallup, Washington. As we walked to the airplane, I asked Cole about his experience at the aviation camp. He said they created a flight plan and flew a flight simulator, among other events. Those were the two parts of the camp he seemed to enjoy the most.
At the plane, I reassured Cole — and his parents — that this would be a very smooth and gentle flight. The goal is to enjoy the experience, but if at any time he feels uneasy to let me know — no questions or judgment — and we’ll land ASAP.
That briefing was hardly needed. Once airborne, I turned the controls over to Cole. With a few prompts from me, Cole flew for the next 30 minutes and did a wonderful job. While visibility was less than ideal due to summer forest fires, it was certainly VFR and afforded a nice first experience for Cole.
A few turns in the pattern brought Cole’s first flight to a close. He played it pretty cool on the outside, but he was fully engaged and happy to be involved as we topped up the Cub’s fuel tank.
Success. Another positive first flight experience for the next generation.
That flight wouldn’t have happened if Marcus hadn’t known — or remembered — I was a pilot. So that begs the question…do your non-pilot friends know you’re a pilot?