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Getting comfortable: Practice makes a pilot

One Week Ready to Solo students tackle landings, stalls

Sherry Rosenkranz parks the RedHawk April 22.

Instructor Dan Farrell’s relentlessly positive attitude is nearly matched by his student, though Sherry Rosenkranz said getting comfortable in an airplane under the intense heat of the Florida sun may take longer than learning to fly.

“It’s snowing today in Michigan, at my house,” said the automotive advertising executive, with a touch of what might well have been wistful longing detectible in her voice. It certainly wasn’t snowing at Plant City Airport, where Rosenkranz landed in the late afternoon April 22 and taxied to the ramp after another successful lesson.

Besides the heat, there are power-on and power-off stalls to get used to, air work that makes her a bit apprehensive. The day “started off really well” Rosenkranz reported, noting that her previous trepidation about landing the Cessna 172 updated with a diesel engine by Redbird Flight Simulations has begun to ease. Rosenkranz and Farrell practiced touch-and-goes in the morning. In the afternoon, approaching Plant City Airport at the end of the day with camera crews waiting below, she leveled off several hundred feet above the runway and made another circuit around the pattern. She explained that her first approach was too fast, and she didn’t feel good about it, so she decided to break it off.

“And do what?” Farrell asked, coaxing the term “go around” from his student.

Rosenkranz, Chris Graves, and Nik Oekerman are all spending the week with flight instructors, Redbird simulators, RedHawk aircraft, and a rotating cast of celebrity flight instructors as part of the One Week Ready to Solo project. Graves spent a considerable amount of time flying with airshow legend and Red Bull Air Race pilot Mike Goulian on April 22; Sean D. Tucker flew with Oekerman the day before. One Week Ready to Solo, the brainchild of Redbird Flight Simulations with support from companies and organizations (including AOPA) across the general aviation spectrum, aims to demonstrate to the world that the right teaching and technology can put a pilot’s wings more easily within reach than many outsiders believe. The three students are all aiming to be ready to solo by April 25. 

Sherry Rosenkranz flies a go-around over Plant City Municipal Airport April 22.

Rosenkranz said stalls are the next challenge.

“I’m a little apprehensive,” she said, but quickly followed that with resolve: It’s just a matter of repetition. Overall, “I think it’s coming together very well.”

Count on three-time U.S. National Aerobatic Champion Patty Wagstaff to help with that stall apprehension on April 23: Rosenkranz is booked for an early-morning flight with Wagstaff, and “I’m super excited,” she said. She know’s much of Wagstaff’s impressive biography already, and looks forward to flying with the airshow legend. But she quickly added that Wagstaff will have “some big shoes to fill,” as Farrell has done a superb job coaching her during the week.

Farrell, smiling as always, looked down at his shoes, noting they were, in fact, rather large—physically speaking.

“She’s doing very well,” Farrell said of his student. “I’m constantly seeing her comfort level improve.”

Learning to fly, he added, is really just a matter of practice, practice, and some more practice.

Jim Moore
Jim Moore
Managing Editor-Digital Media
Digital Media Managing Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot, as well as a certificated remote pilot, who enjoys competition aerobatics and flying drones.
Topics: Events, Sun 'n Fun, Training and Safety

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