AOPA Project Pilot

August 1, 2007

AOPA Project Pilot provides members with the tools to find viable flight-training candidates and support them as student pilots with the wisdom and encouragement of experienced pilots through mentoring. A student with a Project Pilot Mentor is three times more likely to successfully complete his or her training. This exciting program is available free to all AOPA members. You don't have to be a CFI to participate. All it takes is someone who wants to share the joy of general aviation and a few minutes a week to help a student along.

A message from Erik Lindbergh

I love aviation! One of the best things about aviation is the extraordinary group of people you meet who are passionate about flying. About six months ago I met flight instructor Jon Pierre Francia. Francia has taken his passion for flight, his expertise in media, and his love of kids and created an animated television show called Andy's Airplanes for children ages 3 to 8 years old. It is awesome! Andy's Airplanes has extraordinary potential to light up millions of kids (I still consider myself a kid) about the amazing world of flight!

Andy's Airplanes is a mixture of adventure, science, geography, culture, history, and, of course, airplanes, as seen through the eyes of an 8-year-old boy named Andy and his best friend Yeager, a lovable, energetic, and loyal black-footed ferret. Together, the duo undertake a series of exciting adventures in which Andy pilots an endless variety of aircraft to some of the world's most wonderful and intriguing destinations. In each episode, Andy and Yeager fly a different aircraft and meet interesting new kids who guide their adventures along while educating them about local cultures, historic facts, geography, and wonderful topics related to aviation. In episode two, Andy flies a Grumman Albatross to Hawaii and, using song, teaches his new Hawaiian friend Akele about elevators and ailerons as he shows her how to fly. This type of education and entertainment will remind parents of the Schoolhouse Rock they enjoyed as kids and remember to this day.

Francia's mission is to share his love of aviation with a whole new generation along with teaching them where countries, continents, and oceans are and give them a sense of connection to the world.

By making aviation accessible to this new audience in a magical way, it will not only provide access to aviation for these kids, but will in turn create a desire to go to their local airports and see real airplanes. And who will be taking them there? Their parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, making general aviation an important new part of millions of family's lives.

Recently there have been tremendous efforts by the aviation community to support media projects that show aviation in a positive light, such as the movie Flyboys and the documentary film One Six Right. Efforts like this are crucial to communicate the extraordinary potential that aviation has to offer. Andy's Airplanes has the potential to have a huge impact on the long-term future of aviation. You can go to Andy's Web site, buy some DVDs, and share this incredible passion with a kid in your life today.

Erik Lindbergh
AOPA Project Pilot spokesman

Success story

I had been finding it difficult to manage a regular flying schedule. Summer weather in the south tends to dislike flying plans. For this reason, I did not reach my first solo until I had almost 30 hours. But I did reach that point on December 2, 2006, flying out of Cobb County-McCollum Field in Kennesaw, Georgia.

I had not made any training flights to that point that had included normal, non-crosswind landings. I was expecting more of the same for the day of my first solo. As I went up with my instructor, Neil Wheeler, for the final pre-solo dual flight, it appeared that would be the case. Winds were light, but still there. We did a single takeoff and landing, and he had me taxi back to the FBO. I thought, "What did I miss? He stopped me too soon!"

Apparently, I had not missed anything, as he gave me my final pre-solo briefing, then climbed out of the airplane. I watched as he ran inside the building to get his handheld radio, while I called the ground to taxi back to the runway. As I would discover after my flight, the controller had to stall while my instructor got things ready to monitor the event - and for the activities after I returned.

Finally, I was instructed to taxi to Runway 27, and let the airplane start to roll - without an instructor for the first time. I went through my run up, moved to the hold-short line, and made my call to the tower, "Student first solo, remaining in the pattern, three full stop and taxi-backs." After what seemed forever, the tower cleared me for takeoff, left closed traffic. My heart jumped. I was on my own, and entering the runway! The grin I started with on my introductory flight six months earlier was back.

To my total disbelief, as I entered the base leg for my first solo landing, there was absolutely no wind! I looked to the windsock, and it was flat. I was monitoring the ATIS and it reported winds calm. I thought to myself, just for an instant, "What do I do with no winds?" I recovered from my shock as I turned to final, lined up with the centerline, applied the last 10 degrees of flaps, and came down perfectly on the 3-degree glidepath. This first solo landing wasn't my best. I floated a little, but gave a little power, and came back down softly with no bounce, just left of the centerline. I taxied back to the runway, and called for clearance for my second takeoff. The airport was getting busier.

I was cleared to takeoff, but instructed to extend my upwind. I ended up about 4 miles out when the tower cleared me to turn to the crosswind and return to the pattern. The second approach and landing were equally uneventful, although I did stall just before touchdown, causing a slight plop. I taxied back for the last pass.

I was cleared quickly to takeoff and enter left traffic. Everything was going perfectly. As I entered the downwind, the tower had me extend, again. I ended up with a 3-mile final on this circuit. That gave me plenty of time to get lined up, go through all the mental notes, and prepare for this final landing of the day. I decided to not use full flaps on this one. My speed as I crossed the threshold was exactly 72 knots, and my angle was perfect. I saw my target pass the nose and began my flare, holding it off gently, a little more, a little more, and then I was down! I heard my instructor on the radio yell, "Woohoo!" as I continued perfectly on the centerline, then turned off, and headed to the FBO. I was directed to park in front of the building, and my wife and nephew were there to meet me as I climbed out. I received a big handshake from my instructor, and we took the obligatory pictures beside the airplane. Then I was drenched with a big bucket of water (warm, at least, it being December). We made our way inside where my instructor signed my logbook, my wife cut my shirttail off, and I recapped the entire experience for anyone who would listen.

I had finally made my first big hurdle. Next step is cross-country, and solo cross-country. I truly felt like a student pilot, not just a passenger allowed to touch the controls. My grin was bigger than ever! And it has not gone away, yet!

- Michael Saul, AOPA 5408208
Dallas, Georgia

We welcome your photos. Although we can't guarantee publication, we encourage you to e-mail photos to projectpilot@aopa.org or call 800/USA-AOPA (800/872-2672). For more information or to nominate someone for AOPA Project Pilot, please go to the Web site.