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).
I completed my first solo flight successfully on August 25, 2007. I would like to give thanks to AOPA and my AOPA mentor, Dale Seitzer. There were several moments that I felt I had to quit, but because of the incredible advice by my mentor and the practical training materials from AOPA, I made it this far.
I took my first lesson in January 2007. In Minnesota, the weather doesn’t help much, especially in the winter, and I also paused several weeks between instructors. English is my second language (my native language is Korean), so I guess I had more fear than native speakers. The first time I had to talk to the control tower, I was nervous and intimidated to speak over the radio because all the other pilots could hear me as well.
One day, my instructor showed me the AOPA Web site. While I was reading, I found out about the Project Pilot program. Since I was so afraid of the radio calls and other flying maneuvers, I strongly felt that I needed someone who could understand me and help me. So I applied to have a mentor. Mr. Seitzer said he didn’t have mentoring experience, so he asked me how he could help me and what I was expecting. I explained my situation to him and expressed my frustration. He kindly advised me and encouraged me.
Landing was the biggest challenge ever. The very first day when I was introduced to landing practice, I felt like quitting. I called my mentor and told him I was feeling like quitting. He said flying shouldn’t be stressful and suggested taking a little time off. He also suggested taking the FAA written test first. So I went back to the school and practiced again.
On August 25 the weather was beautiful—wind 5 knots, sky clear, visibility 10 sm. After I flew with my instructor he said to me, “Now, you are going by yourself.”
I took off and landed for the first time solo. I felt great! The second landing was not the greatest. I ballooned and flared a little too long. On the third attempt, I took off smoothly. I watched my airspeed and everything was fine. Ninety knots on the downwind, 80 on the base, 70 on final, flaps down all the way. Sixty-five on short final. Then I saw the end of the runway. I felt the ground effect—invisible, but something you can feel. The two main wheels touched down on the runway gently. Then the nosewheel slowly came down afterward. The last landing was unbelievable, the best of any landings I’ve ever made in my life. It was like a soft, light kiss to the runway.
The controller said congratulations and when I got out of the airplane, everybody applauded and congratulated me.
I couldn’t have done this by myself. Every time I struggled with fears and worries, my mentor was there to encourage me. Now I am preparing for my FAA knowledge test, nighttime flying, and cross-country. I believe I can do it.
Nami Ha Colaizy, AOPA 5941367
Saint Paul, Minnesota