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Student pilot gets lift from AOPA Flight Path

flightpath winner Jan JohnsonJohnson in a P-51 Mustang, her favorite aircraft. She met the owner at a gathering of Mustangs in the Bay area. “I have met some amazing people doing this,” she said about flying.

A photograph a colleague brought to work one day was enough to prompt Jan Johnson of Portola Valley, Calif., to pursue a lifelong dream of flying. Now, Johnson has help with her training thanks to a cash prize from the AOPA Flight Path Sweepstakes.

AOPA established the Flight Path Sweepstakes to continue to encourage more people to start their aviation training—and more importantly, to earn their first pilot certificate. 

The Flight Path series is a progression of e-mails written by CFIs and pilots that contain educational resources and encouraging tips tailored to 24 different stages of becoming a pilot. This online program provides student pilots an online “My Flight Path” page to track their progress. As prospective pilots achieve each of five milestones—first flight, obtaining an FAA student medical certificate, first solo flight, passing the FAA knowledge test, and passing the checkride to become an FAA-certificated pilot—they are automatically entered into the sweepstakes for a chance to win one of five $1,000 cash prizes or one of two $100 Sporty’s gift certificates that are awarded monthly.

In addition, anyone who obtains a student medical certificate gets a special first solo T-shirt to wear for his or her first solo flight, in keeping with the tradition among CFIs to cut the shirttail when they endorse their students for their first solo flight. Students may also request a free logbook.

The program has already had 35 winners since its inception in April. Johnson was one of the July winners. 

Johnson, an engineer, said she had always wanted to fly but no one had encouraged her to start flight training when she was young.  She decided to start when a coworker brought a picture of himself in small airplane to work and told her about his flying club. She took her discovery flight Feb. 8, and she was hooked.

“I made really good progress, and I am completely, 100 percent obsessed with flying now, “she said.” …My husband thinks I’m cuckoo.”

Johnson soloed five weeks after her first flight and passed the FAA knowledge test this summer. She is now preparing for her checkride, and she doesn’t plan to slow down anytime soon. She plans to keep training right on through her instrument rating, and she’ll do so with a new GPS unit, a navigational aid she decided to purchase using her $1,000 cash prize.

“Having something tangible every time I take to the sky, I will remember—I got help,” she said.

As originally published in October 2009 edition of Flight Training magazine.

October 1, 2009

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