A former Navy corpsman, a Harley-Davidson custom builder, and a global advertising manager for General Motors have been tapped for a one-week adventure that could change their lives—learning how to fly.
To show how attainable learning to fly is, Redbird Flight Simulations announced the One Week Ready to Solo project, an industry-wide effort that is providing free training for the three students—who have no prior flight experience—with the goal of getting them close to soloing in seven days.
During Sun ‘n Fun in Lakeland, Florida, the students will receive nine simulator sessions and nine flight lessons from a team of seasoned instructors from Cirrus Aviation, Aviation Adventures, Paragon Flight, Redbird Skyport, and Jeppesen. Two of the flight lessons and some motivational talks will be from celebrity instructors. Imagine learning from airshow performers Michael Goulian, Dave Monroe, Sean D. Tucker, and Patty Wagstaff; legendary training gurus John and Martha King; and other renowned instructors!
The students will be on site at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport for ground school and simulator training in the Redbird Tent at the show grounds. Their flight training will be conducted in two refurbished, diesel-powered RedHawk Cessna 172s from nearby Plant City Airport.
The students couldn’t be more excited to get started.
Chris Graves, an engineer for Harley-Davidson, is intrigued by aircraft design and principles like measuring airspeed. But his interest goes beyond the science of it. His mother had soloed before, and the opportunity to learn to fly opened up a new conversation with his mom about some of the traditions of flight training and that special first solo.
Nik Oekerman, who started as a Navy corpsman embedded with Marine units in Iraq, said he’s “always been drawn to adventurous things” and can’t wait to learn to fly or try aerobatics. Oekerman said he’s not nervous and that he can’t wait to start training.
Sherry Rosenkranz, a global advertising manager for GM and Livestrong Foundation volunteer who serves the cancer community, said learning to fly is “right in line with who I am.” Rosenkranz is a fan of motorcycles and high-end automobiles, so, she said, airplanes seem like a good fit. She’s already started to evaluate how flying could help her travel throughout Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Canada for family visits, work, or volunteer activities with Livestrong.
The general aviation community can cheer on the students at Sun ‘n Fun, or through social media using hashtag #1WeekReadyToSolo. AOPA will be providing frequent updates through social media and daily on AOPA.org.
Those attending Sun ‘n Fun can stop by the Redbird tent to meet the participants, listen in as they get their morning ground briefings, and watch their progress in the simulators from monitors inside the tent.
Best of all, the entire experience will be videotaped—the briefings, inside the simulator and airplanes, and the supervised solo at the end of the week. The video will be edited into webisodes that AOPA will post in the coming weeks. The goal is to showcase for nonpilots that in a week, a person can be ready to fly an airplane by him- or herself. But, the shows will be just as interesting for all pilots—what better way to relive your early training days than seeing someone accomplish their goals too!
Learning to fly takes the support of a community—a flight school, airport community, friends, and family. Because the intense One Week Ready to Solo project is removing the students from their home environments and placing them in the middle of the year’s first major aviation show, the general aviation community has rallied to provide a supportive network.
Redbird Flight Simulations is providing the RedHawk Cessna 172s, simulators, curricula, flight instructors, fuel, and other logistical support for the week.
AOPA is supplying two video crews to document the experiences during Sun ‘n Fun, providing social media exposure during the event, and then promoting the webisodes to the general and aviation media to spread the word that learning to fly is fun and accessible.
Sun ‘n Fun is providing logistical and media support, and, most importantly, a friendly general aviation environment at the show where these students can thrive.