The startup Texas flying club that won AOPA’s Flying Club 150 Giveaway last October celebrated another happy milestone on March 17 when a student pilot in its membership accomplished his first solo flight in the Reimagined Cessna 150 awarded to the club by AOPA President Mark Baker.
With his parents and a friend watching, the Eaton High school junior performed three takeoffs and landings—each one to a full stop—then taxied in to congratulations and a return flight to Hicks, where a ceremonial shortening of the “cheap Walmart shirt” he had worn for the occasion was performed, in accordance with aviation tradition.
“It likes to fly,” he said of the Reimagined Cessna 150, noting the airplane’s handling as “smooth and easy,” and with “a nice bounce to it,” power-wise.
Chastain’s solo, on which he logged six-tenths of an hour as pilot in command, came at the 11-hour mark of his flight training, and occurred less than three months after the club began its flight operations in January.
The giveaway of the aircraft, which AOPA had refurbished in partnership with Aviat Aircraft, was made possible through AOPA’s flying clubs initiative, a component of the association’s You Can Fly Program. You Can Fly was launched in 2015 to help make flying affordable and accessible, and to build and support the general aviation pilot community.
Chastain, whose dad is a pilot for Southwest Airlines, sounded much like any other pilot in a phone interview as he picked apart his three solo landings. The first one was “perfect,” the second, “good,” he said.
And the third?
“A little bouncy, but it was still all right,” he said. “I flared too high.”
Something to practice on the next of his once-a-week flight lessons—except that he was keeping his eye on a forecast of rain for the following Friday, he said.
Chastain also was looking forward to the next regularly scheduled flying club meeting to be held the last Saturday of the month, at which the members go over the previous month’s activity and take up a safety tip that members can focus on when they fly.
The club has 13 flying members, and there is another student pilot “in the pipeline” for an eventual first solo, said club secretary Thomas Barry.
Members of the flying club, which is named for Nathan Abel, a passionate pilot who died of cancer in 2013, also try to be present when maintenance is performed on the airplane. Chastain said he recently sat in as the Reimagined 150 received an oil change.
As the first member to solo, Chastain was to be presented with a license plate frame to mark his moment in the spotlight, said Barry, adding that the presentation would establish a club tradition, with the ceremonial object to be passed along to a new honoree each time a first solo is achieved.