“I’m a little nervous Mom,” Jason said as we pulled up to the airport.
“You’ll be fine, just like flying with me; but you get to be the pilot in command today with an instructor by your side. I’ll be in the back right behind you.” I replied with encouragement.
I would say that I was probably more excited about Jason’s first discovery flight than he was at the time. We had discussed giving him an opportunity with a flight instructor to get behind the controls just like a pilot for a couple of months before it actually happened. He was excited, but had told me more than once that he was also very nervous.
He had several questions, “Will I have to land it too? Will she help me? Will I get to do everything? I get to sit where you normally sit in the plane?”
“Yes, yes and yes. You will get to do it all, with the flight instructors help of course.” I smiled at him, and the curious look on his face was one of excitement with a bit of terror as he processed my answers to all the questions spinning in his head.
It’s a funny thing now looking back at how far Jason has come with the whole flying thing. As much as he has been with me along this journey, that first year was quite hilarious with him. He loved sitting in the cockpit on the ground pretending to be flying the plane; but ask him if he wanted to go up flying with us and it was a flat out, “No!” Ask him if he would go flying with mom once she gets her license and you’d get quite a lengthy answer, “After Shelby (my daughter) goes up and says it’s okay, and after Dad goes up and says it’s okay, then I might think about it.” We would laugh out loud and shake our heads wondering if he’d ever want to give it a go.
Fast forward a couple of years, and after going through breast cancer with me, he watched and encouraged me every step along the way. Cancer is a family battle; regardless of who has cancer, it affects the entire family. I just didn’t realize at the time, how much so.
When I finally got cleared to fly again, he told me everybody at school had been praying for me to be able to fly again. I remember when he told me, tears welled up in my eyes. I was overcome by the sweetness of his and everyone else’s thoughtfulness. If it was important to me, then it was obviously important to him. He heard my cries and my frustration, and surely my anger too during those long two years. Part of me felt sad that he had to endure that with me as well, part of me thankful that he was compassionate through that time too. It was a tough time for all of us; but we made it through, and as a family, are probably better for it in many ways.
As I got back to flying, Jason’s maturity shined through in his encouragement and excitement for me as I went through each lesson and gained my confidence back. When asked if he’d fly with me when I got my license, he merely said, “We’ll see.”
The day of reckoning finally came when a few days after I got my license, I booked the plane to take the family for barbecue at the Pik n’ Pig for our first outing. I wondered how Jason would handle his first general aviation flight. With Dad with us, he seemed to feel much more confident than he had in the years past. While they were both probably way more nervous than they let on; I think after we landed at BQ1, they were both feeling much more confident about flying with mom.
By the third flight with me, he was playing video games on his phone and not even paying attention to what was going on in or out of the plane. I knew at that point, he was comfortable with flying in a single engine plane.
Here we are today, Jason’s thirteen years old and about to fly a plane for the first time himself. It’s been quite a journey together, but I’m confident, he will do great and love it.
The instructor takes him out and walks him through preflight, explaining every step carefully and ensuring he understands as they make their way around the plane. She puts him at ease, even though he walked up shyly at one point and put his head on my shoulder for just a second indicating he was still a bit nervous. Teenagers don’t like to show their fears, and he was being very brave. I squeezed his hand and assured him that he’d do great.
The instructor talked him through startup, checking the instruments and engine information, showed him how to listen to the weather and set your indicators pointing at everything to ensure he knew where each dial, light or knob was located. When we taxied out, I felt so proud. I looked at the young man in front of me and saw for a brief second the child that couldn’t even see over the yoke a few short years ago, now a much more confident and excited teenager in the pilot in command seat. It was a proud momma moment indeed, and I got to be a part of it flying backseat documenting it all.
You might wonder if I was nervous with a teenager at the controls, but not once did I feel concerned. I was confident that he’d do an awesome job, and he did. Jason isn’t much of a dare devil, and he’s very cautious in all things he does, so flying with him was probably easier than it will be when he starts driving.
He even seemed relaxed after we got in the air; I saw him look down over the runway and at the planes below and smile. He briefly looked back at me and gave me a big grin, and quickly went back to focusing on everything the flight instructor told him. While he drifted off course a bit from time to time, she would help him correct and I watched as his confidence grew with each maneuver of the plane. I could tell when we were coming back to make the approach to land that he was nervous again, but the instructor helped him and talked him through each part of the landing. Once we were on the ground, he was feeling quite triumphant.
When the plane was stopped and the headsets pulled off, he gave me a high five and said that it was an awesome experience.
He did tell me that he didn’t know if he wanted to study as much as I had to in order to get my license. Time will tell if he feels the same in a few years. Not many thirteen year olds get to fly a plane, I can’t wait for him to tell his friends about his experience. They knew he was going up and everyone’s comment was, “You’re going to die!”
I really do hope that in time, we can change this perception that others have of general aviation. I think if given time and the opportunity; like Jason, they will change their impression of flying. Instead of it being a perceived death sentence, that they might see it like we do, just a wonderful family adventure.
Here’s a link to the video I put together of Jason’s flight. I hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed the flight.
A shout out and thank you to Aerowood Aviation and Jessica for being a part of Jason’s journey.