When Bobby Woodson took his 6-year-old daughter Lainey for her first airplane ride last fall, he had no idea that their sunset trip around a grass strip in South Carolina would become an Internet sensation.
But more than 80,000 people have watched the YouTube video—and that number is growing rapidly.
“It’s taken me completely by surprise,” said Woodson, 40, a corporate jet pilot based in Charlotte, N.C. “I spent all of 45 minutes editing the video and putting it to music. I only did it to share with family and friends—and that’s where I thought it would end.”
There’s no audio, so you can’t hear what father and daughter are saying as they skim the countryside in an Aeronca Champ with the window open and the door off. But you don’t need to. Lainey’s unbridled expressions of joy, concern, discovery, and excitement convey the very best of what flying has to offer—and that message has resonated with tens of thousands of people around the world who have watched or shared the four-minute video via social media.
The flight itself was a spur-of-the-moment event.
“Lainey had always been a bit fearful about the idea of flying,” Woodson said. “But it was a beautiful day, and when I put her in the airplane she didn’t pitch too much of a fit—so we just flew.”
Woodson had mounted a GoPro Hero video camera on the glareshield and he later combined that video with a few still images made that day. He edited the video at home and showed it to his wife, and her emotional response showed him this clip was special.
“She teared up about 15 seconds into it,” he said. “I had no idea the impact it would have on people.”
Lainey is the youngest of four Woodson children, two boys and two girls, ages 13 to six.
“She’s a little shy, a little reserved with people she doesn’t know,” he said. “And she’s very articulate. What you see is what you get with Lainey.”
Woodson said he was concentrating on flying while the video was being recorded, but the finished product resonates with him, too.
“I fly in a very structured environment at work,” he said. “So the video reminds me of the excitement, joy, peacefulness, and freedom that drew us all to want to fly in the first place. There’s no radio and no GPS in the Champ. It’s just a great release from all other concerns.”