No Lesson Will Ever Be This Exciting

By Capt. Eric Tellmann (Spirit)

Capt. Eric Tellmann (Spirit) sits in on his son's flight lesson.

I took my 12-year-old son for his first flight lesson—an introductory flight—at an airport in Clearwater, Fla., In the weeks prior, he was filled with the pure excitement and smiles of that aviation bug we all know so well. We shared many talks of the industry and being a career pilot.

We walked in the doors of the flight school and met his first certified flight instructor. After a great introduction, we started right into the “meat and potatoes”—weather briefings, airport environment, preflight, and much more. I asked my son if I could jumpseat with him, and with laughter he approved. I wanted to get some great video so he’d be able to look back on it someday.

We all nestled into the plane, parked facing the runway, and were ready to watch the propeller spin for the first time. Suddenly we heard a smashing sound and looked up to see a Piper Archer cartwheeling down the runway after colliding with a helicopter. My son stayed in the plane and I ran over to the accident to help. Fortunately, everyone was fine with just a few bumps and scratches, but both the Piper and the helicopter were totaled.

About three days prior to this, I had completed my first CIRP (Critical Incident Response Program) training as an ALPA volunteer. Never did I imagine I would be reflecting on this training to help my own son. As the days pressed on after the accident, he began to open up more and more about what he experienced. Soon he was ready to get back at it, so we rescheduled the lesson.

Many months later, he has now completed about five hours of flight time. It’s such an amazing feeling when I can mentor my own child in aviation—even if sometimes the lessons don’t go as planned. I recently attempted a checkout in a C-172 and I took him with me to watch from the back so he could see me doing steep turns and stalls and all of those maneuvers. Everything was spot on, the maneuvers all looked great, and I was getting a feel back for the airplane. Then it was time for the landing, where I was supposed to shine. But having not touched a single-engine airplane for eight years, and tossing in a 15-knot crosswind, it didn’t really turn out the way I’d wished.

Let’s just say the success of a landing is not based on how high you can bounce when you hit bottom. Of course, that started the comments from the back seat with laughter, followed by, “Dad seriously, that’s all you have?” With that, the landing contest was on. Fortunately, I had a chance of redemption with two more landings that would surely show improvement. And I figured he’d never landed without instructor assistance, so how well could he really do? Of course, I underestimated my son’s ability to outdo his dad and I watched him repeatedly roll it in ever so gently.

That day . . . he won. He always reminds me that he is looking forward to following in my footsteps as an ALPA pilot, and the aviation bug has surely bit him. I am proud of my son and, with his ability to land, I am looking forward to him one day being my mentor.