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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Near Midair!

The one thing that will keep me safe from playing a joke on my blog is writing a post for Blogging in Formation. Today is the day, and this week we are talking about our first Solo flight. 

I was sixteen years old and arrived at Renton airport for a regular lesson. We took off and did a couple touch and goes. After landing my instructor told me to taxi to the base of the tower. When I did, he climbed out and said, "Have fun!"

What? I'm on my own? This was not planned. I wasn't ready...Was I? I had no time to doubt. My instructor left me with a stupid look on my face. So I did as he said and taxied into position preparing for takeoff. 

Once airborne the reality of flying solo hit me. I could not wipe the smile off my face. It was so cool. I was flying. I was in charge of the plane. My Cessna and I were one dancing in the sky. I flew a downwind pattern, turned base added a notch of flaps and the tower cleared me for landing. 

I lowered another notch of flaps and cleared the area when suddenly I saw another plane below me and pulling out in front. Where did he come from? Ah... just another pilot who decided to sneak under my plane and cut in front. I added power and called the tower telling them I was going around. 

I flew over the runway, preparing to fly another pattern. On the downwind my instructor called from the tower and told me to make a full stop. Sure. No problem. 

After landing I taxied over to the tower and shutdown the plane. 

He asked, "Are you okay?"

"Of course," I answered.

"Do you want to continue flying?" he asked.

"Absolutely. Why?"

Apparently from the tower the other plane flying low under mine appeared closer from their perspective. Midair came to mind. To me... it was just something to avoid. My instructor worried that this would cause me great fear and I would give up flying. After I calmed him down and told him everything was okay, I said, "Can I go do it again?" 

He smiled and said, "Absolutely."

The very sad thing is, I don't have any photos of those days. I did not own a camera and nobody came to the airport to take pictures. I never had my shirt cut off either. I'm thinking when I solo in my airplane ... that I am going to buy one day... I will get  some pictures and have them cut off that shirt! Seriously, it's never too late. 

The greatest part of this flying business is that every time I sit in the seat and put my hands on the thrust levers I have that same feeling and the same smile. That joy of taking a plane into the sky has never diminished.

Everyone remembers their first solo flight. 
Do you? 

Blogging in Formation line up:
Today: Karlene and Andrew
Apr 2 Weds: Rob and Chip
Apr 3 Thur: Eric and Ron
Apr 4 Fri: Mark and Brent

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene


  1. Wow, what a great story! First solo and first near miss LOL!

    That really demonstrates to me (& your audience) that you really are made of "the Right Stuff"! No, "OMG, like did you SEE that? I'm like sooo freaking out!" Nope, you just hopped in and went at it again!
    I never even heard of the shirt cutting tradition till I became an instructor myself. I'd write a personalized limerick on the back of each student's shirt. Wish I'd saved all those poems!

    1. You know... they say "it's not it, but when." The funny thing is I just thought... oh, a plane. Don't hit it, that wouldn't be good.
      If you want, we can cut your shirt in OSH. :)
      Thanks for the comment.

  2. Great story Karlene! I love it! Way to keep your cool!

    1. Maybe it was one of those things... I didn't know any better to lose it. :)

  3. Sometimes it is best not to know the dangers in life. Glad it was just a unexpected formation and not a midair.

    1. That's exactly what I was thinking. Ignorance is bliss. And you're right... my first formation flight too!

  4. One time my instructor and I flew from OKC to Lake Texhoma, combining a cup of coffee with a cross country flight. As we took off, another plane came in intending to land from the wrong direction. The near-miss caused a few anxious moments, but it didn't daunt me. I wonder how many accidents occur from pilots landing downwind meeting pilots taking off properly - or vice versa. Probably pretty rare.

    1. Yes... and rare is a good thing in that case. Glad you only suffered some anxious moments and it all worked out. Thanks for the comment.

  5. Big sky small airplane doesn't always work! But a miss is worth a thousand miles.

  6. Karlene this is truly an amazing story. What is most amazing is that you were craving for more. One of the fears that many have is our doubts about our true potential. Once we taxi into position and hold, the moment we take off, our true potential comes to life. And you wanted to go up again despite the possible MidAir. Usually it's the instructor calming the student, but this was definitely as you said, the other way around.

    Thank you so much for sharing and definitely wish you had a camera. (I will say this - even though my intro flight was photo and videographed, I only had a VHS video which I had to convert into a DVD showing my first time as a pax on the NWA 742 at DTW.)

    1. Oh... a video on your first passenger flight would be awesome! In hindsight I suspect I did not realize what could have happened. I saw a plane and avoid. A good plan when you're flying. Thank you so much for the comment.


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