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Erik Lindbergh chats with AOPA members about joy of mentoringErik Lindbergh chats with AOPA members about joy of mentoring

Erik Lindbergh chats with AOPA members about joy of mentoring

Lindbergh shares flight training milestones with prospective students

Your first solo and your first checkride - those are two achievements pilots never forget.

The first prize that a student pilot can look forward to is getting the back of their shirt cut out after soloing. As hundreds of thousands of pilots can attest, that cloth with your flight instructor's signature is no rag. It represents your first great aviation achievement.

But if you don't want one of your shirts cut up, Erik Lindbergh recommends taking a friend's. That's what he did. After giving it back, minus a few ounces of cotton, his friend realized the importance and still has it.

Lindbergh also told the audience how his private pilot checkride at a tower-controlled field turned out to be a true learning experience.

After taxiing to the runway, he called the tower and was cleared to take off. "But something didn't feel right," Lindbergh said. He had forgotten to do the runup. But he handled the situation and ultimately passed the checkride.

So what are your great milestone stories? If you have some, find someone to mentor and share your learning experience with him. Don't have any stories yet? Find a mentor, start flight training, and you'll have a handful soon enough. Check out to get started.

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AOPA Executive Vice President of Communications Jeff Myers (right) details the new AOPA Project
Pilot program prior to Erik Lindbergh's talk.
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Click for larger image

Mentors have played a major role in pilot-adventurer Erik Lindbergh's flying career. And even though he's Charles Lindbergh's grandson, it wasn't someone from his family who encouraged him to take up flying. It was a fellow friend who wanted to learn how to fly and repeatedly begged Lindbergh to take flying lessons with him.

"We went through [flight training] concurrently, and we mentored each other," Lindbergh, the AOPA Project Pilot national spokesman, told about 150 pilots and prospective students. "I never would have become a pilot if it hadn't been for my friend pushing me."

Lindbergh, who said he was constantly flying through the air as a child, whether on skies or bicycles or in gymnastics, never thought about flying as a career. But his plans changed when he turned 21 and was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

The flying bug didn't bite until he turned 24 and decided to pursue flight training with his friend. He earned his private pilot certificate within a year and decided to pursue his commercial certificate and instructor ratings, including his CFII.

By 30, he was unable to walk. Two knee replacements, and some other work, gave Lindbergh a second chance at flying. But he had to get back up to speed in the cockpit - he had stopped flying for seven years.

Once again, it was a mentor who helped him out. As it turns out, this mentor was one of his former flight students.

Lindbergh said it was amazing "to help someone get started in flying and then to have it come full circle.

"It's been a huge reward for me to seek out mentors and also to give back, to pay it forward [as a mentor]. That mentor relationship is extraordinary."

June 3, 2006

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