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Ready For Takeoff - Turn Your Aviation Passion Into A Career

The Ready For Takeoff podcast will help you transform your aviation passion into an aviation career. Every week we bring you instruction and interviews with top aviators in their field who reveal their flight path to an exciting career in the skies.
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Ready For Takeoff - Turn Your Aviation Passion Into A Career
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Now displaying: Page 1
Apr 1, 2021

In August 1962, I was 17 years old and taking Private Pilot lessons at Atlantic Aviation in Wilmington, Delaware. I was taking my lessons in a PA-18 Super Cub, and felt like I was getting close to solo. At the time, a minimum of 8 hours was required to solo, with most students taking about 12 hours. I had slightly under 11 hours and my instructor indicated my solo would be soon. I was on cloud nine as I drove home from my lesson. I would be able to solo before starting classes at the University of Delaware in September!

There's an old expression, "The most dangerous part of flying is the drive to and from the airport". That was certainly true for me. On my way home a drunk driver slammed into the back of my car, causing a serious whiplash injury. I had to wear a cervical collar for nine months.

When I showed up for my next flight lesson, my instructor told me there was NO WAY I could solo as long as I couldn't turn my head to clear for traffic. He was right, of course. I continued taking lessons every couple of weeks, but it was starting to get EXPENSIVE - after all, it was costing TEN DOLLARS AN HOUR for flying lessons!

Finally, in March, I was able to remove my cervical collar for a few hours a day, and expected to immediately solo, but my instructor apparently wanted to be sure I could safely clear for traffic. I was at 24 hours total flying time, and still hadn't soloed. I decided I needed a different flight school. I was living in a U. of D. dorm in Newark, and found a nearby grass strip with a "Learn To Fly" sign a few miles down Highway 279. 

I met the owner, Waldo Lovett, and showed him my logbook. 

He was immediately concerned about what a dangerous student pilot I must be, having that much time without soloing. But he agreed to train me in his PA-11, which is a J-3 Cub that can be flown solo from the front seat. I got the training for $9 an hour.

No electrical system, no radios, no starter. No preflight inspection. For three more half-hour flights, I got in the airplane and held the brakes, Waldo spun the prop, and we practiced landing on turf. FINALLY, on April 2, 1963, I was cleared solo!

In my heart I absolutely KNEW that I would never become a military or professional pilot, because I was such a lousy pilot it took 25:30 to finally solo!

The PA-11 I trained in, N4681M, was unfortunately destroyed in a landing accident in 2016. I had often thought of trying to buy it, but the 65 horsepower engine would never have been able to handle Colorado's mile high elevation.

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