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 ( www.AOPAProjectPilot.org).
People often ask me about my favorite flights. Where do I begin? I had an amazing time flying the Sikorsky S38 flying boat during the National Air Tour in 2003. It had a wet bar and a couch in the back! After dropping flowers during our flyby of Meigs Field in Chicago we had a spectacular splashdown and takeoff from a lake in Wisconsin. Knowing that my grandfather and Pan Am founder Juan Trippe tooled around Central America in one of these 80-mph amphibians in the 1930s made this a once-in-a-lifetime flight.
In November, I flew the Spirit of St. Louis Columbia 300 down to Bend, Oregon, on my last flight in this glorious bird. After having flown her across the Atlantic and all across the country for the last five years, we are retiring her to the St. Louis Science Center.
The weather in the Puget Sound basin was blustery and overcast, but VFR. I departed Bremerton in the morning, leveled off at 1,500 feet and flew south past Olympia. Following the unfolding promise of better weather to the east, I was rewarded by the sunny, snow-covered flanks of Mount St. Helens. Normally I fly the shortest route or the best weather route across the mountains, but feeling a bittersweet nostalgia about the incredible relationship I have with this aircraft, I decided to take a grand tour down the spine of the Cascade Mountains. After circling the steaming caldera of Mount St. Helens, and imagining what nearby Mount Adams would look like with its top blown off, I turned the airplane south and headed for the Columbia Gorge. Upon seeing the ski lifts on Mount Hood at Timberline and Hood Meadows, my pulse quickened at the adventure and exploration these peaks represented from my bird's-eye perspective.
Although this was my favorite flight in the past few months, I much prefer to fly with passengers onboard. Sharing the view of the steaming lava dome inside the volcano or the crystal blue color of a high mountain lake with someone is a powerful thing. Share your experience with a student pilot by becoming an AOPA Project Pilot Mentor. You will help foster a lifelong passion for flight and, as is often the case, you will receive benefits you never anticipated.
We welcome your photos. Although we can't guarantee publication, we encourage you to e-mail photos to [email protected] 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.