In the summer of 1992, I was encouraged by a young lady I was dating at the time to embark on a lifelong dream, to learn to fly. I began my training in August with an excellent pilot named Phil Lawrence, in a sharp-looking Cessna 150 with the name “Old Gomer” painted on the engine cowl. My training was limited to three or four sessions a month, but as fall went on, I got more and more comfortable flying the 1600-pound two-seater.
On December 20, 1992, on a bone cold, slate grey day, after flying three touch-and-go landings from Ada’s runway 35, Phil and I stopped the airplane on a taxiway. He endorsed my logbook, got out of the airplane, and said “Shoot three more,” meaning fly three touch-and-goes by myself. I taxied to the threshold, prepped the airplane by the book, and took off. I remember how much lighter and more responsive the plane felt without the weight of my instructor in it. My three landings were flawless.
Once back in the hangar, by tradition, Phil cut off my shirt tail to “hang it out to dry.” Later that day I got on a jet and flew to Florida for Christmas, with a once-in-a-lifetime story to tell.
Soloing is a seminal moment in every pilot’s life.