It’s always great to see your child step out of her comfort zone and try new things. I like to give my kids new experiences, but I never imagined that my 11-year-old daughter would fly an airplane.
She got the opportunity to serve as a co-pilot through our church. As an incentive to complete assignments, one member offered each successful child the opportunity to fly in his personal plane.
Although my daughter completed the assignments, she didn’t view a ride in a two-seater plane to be much of a prize. I must admit that I was also reluctant to let her do it. I had my own set of concerns about her safety. But we both agreed that she would go to the airport and sit in the cockpit.
On the big day, the pilot called us to set an appointment to see the plane. My daughter and I arrived at the airport at our appointed time and waited for the pilot to return from a flight. Upon his arrival, we approached his plane and watched the other passengers to get out. The piloted assisted my daughter’s friend’s dad, who seemed a bit groggy, from the cockpit.
The pilot quickly ushered the dad to the airport lobby and returned to do his pre-flight checks.
“Don’t worry about him,” the pilot said trying to sound reassuring. “He’s okay. Just a little motion sickness. So are you ready for your flight?”
My daughter looked at me and then back to the pilot. “I don’t think I’m going to fly. I only want to sit in the cockpit.”
“Are you sure?” He asked. “It’s a great day for flying.”
“I’m sure,” she said.
“Okay,” he said sounding a bit disappointed. “Let’s get inside the plane and I’ll show you the controls and instruments.”
The two of them spent the next 10 minutes talking about the plane’s controls, aerodynamics, and flight paths. When they were done, my daughter stepped out of the cock pit, thanked the pilot, and headed to the exit.
As I watched her walk away, I knew I had to intervene and make her get back in that plane. I was more comfortable with her flying after talking to the pilot who had been flying longer than I’d been alive. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I couldn’t let her pass up.
When we reached my car, I started my sales pitch.
“You really should fly in the plane,” I said.
“I don’t want to,” she said. “I’m scared.”
“If you’re afraid,” I said. “I’ll go up with you.”
She pondered for a few minutes and then agreed to take the flight. We ran back to the runway to get in the plane before the pilot’s next passenger arrived. My daughter approached the pilot and said, “I’ve changed my mind. I want to fly.”
“I’m so glad you did,” the pilot said with a huge grin on his face. “Let’s take a ride.”
My daughter and the pilot adorned their headsets while I crammed myself into the tiny jumpseat in the back of the cockpit. The engine roared as the propeller started spinning. We approached the runway and the pilot asked if we were ready.
“Yep!” said my daughter. “Let’s go.”
Within a few seconds, we were airborne. We spent the next 15 minutes flying over our part of town.
“Are you ready to fly the plane?” the pilot asked my daughter.
“I guess so,” she said tentatively.
The pilot explained the flying process and gave my daughter control of the plane. The plane immediately shot into the sky followed by a quick nose dive. The pilot regained control and leveled out the plane.
“The controls are sensitive,” he said. “You don’t have to use so much force. Let’s try it again.” (I was glad that the pilot allowed my daughter to learn from her mistake and showed that he trusted her enough to give her another chance.)
This time, my daughter kept the plane smooth and steady. She even managed to turn the plane with no problem.
We spent a few more minutes in the air and returned to the airport.
My daughter was giddy when she exited the plane and couldn’t wait to tell the rest of our family about her experience.
As we were walking back to our car, the pilot tapped my daughter on her shoulder. “Before you leave, I have to know something,” he said. “Did you change your mind on your own or did you get a little nudge from your dad?”
She looked a me with a smile and replied. “I got a nudge from my dad.”
He let our a hearty laugh, patted her on the back and said, “Sometimes we all need a little nudge to push past our fears.”