The similarities between Rick Mihalinac’s logbook and his late father’s pilot logbook are uncanny: Both had 69.5 hours of flight time when they took their private pilot checkrides; both of their checkrides lasted 1.2 hours; and Mihalinac’s checkride took place on Aug. 27—40 years to the day of his father’s first solo.
“It’s like there’s some kind of connection there” even though his father died 15 years ago, Mihalinac said.
Memories of flying with his father in a Cessna 150 and 172 helped encourage Mihalinac to pursue his dream of learning to fly. He carries a picture of his father with him in his flight bag, so he’s there in spirit on every flight. On his solo cross-country flight, he propped the photo up on the copilot seat’s armrest.
“I know my dad would be proud,” he said.
Mihalinac, who currently flies the Piper PA-28-161 that he learned in at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, is considering joining a Cessna 172 flying club at the airport in the spring. The Cessna 172 would be another flying connection Mihalinac would have with his father.
But it’s not only the memories of flying with his father that encourage him. So does his wife, Darcy.
Mihalinac had told AOPA in June during the Homecoming Fly-In in Maryland that as soon as he earned his certificate, Darcy would be his flying buddy. He made good on that promise Aug. 29 when he took her for a 1.5-hour flight on a Saturday evening to watch the sun set and full moon rise.
“I told her that I wanted it to be special,” he said.
Mihalinac acknowledges that his private pilot certificate is a “license to learn” and said that he plans to work on his complex endorsement in a Piper Arrow next.
“I look forward to many more years of happy flying,” he said. And his father will be by his side, at least in spirit, tucked in his flight bag.