Come Be Part of the Sky – My First Airplane Pilot Lesson

Each year, it gets harder and harder to create a new, unique Yearly Bucket List with ideas that top the previous years. I spend hours dreaming of the “what ifs” as if I could do anything in the world and then I add the craziest, most extreme ideas to my list, thinking outside of the box and completely forgetting about restrictions. Flight and everything that it encompasses has always found its way onto my list and lead me to new heights so this year I thought… heck, I might as well try being the pilot for a change. Being a pilot is one of those things that kids imagine, but it doesn’t exactly seem like reality. Pilots are part of an elite club and an introductory lesson from Adam Zeeman, at  Sunrise Aviation, reminded that not even the sky is the limit. Sunrise Aviation is a Flight Training Academy in Orange County that is committed to providing a full range of conventional and aerobatic flight instruction. They have been in business at John Wayne Airport for over thirty years and have gained a national reputation for excellence. I may have been simply interested in seeing what it felt like to pilot a light aircraft, but after jumping into the pilot’s seat, I found a new hobby.

Before I got into the pilot’s seat, I receive a briefing from my instructor, Adam, on the techniques and safety aspects of light aircraft flying. I originally assumed I would only control a very small part of the actually flying, but during my briefing, I learned that I would take-off and fly most of the time while Adam would only handle all of the landing. He explained the primary cockpit controls, such as the rudder pedals and the joystick, using diagrams on a whiteboard in his office. He was extremely friendly and put me at ease immediately. Knowing that he was a family man and that he had a six-year-old son that he was going to go home to every evening made me certain that I was going to be safe. His easy, relaxed attitude and extensive knowledge were also an added bonus.

After the ground instruction was complete, I hopped into the Pilot’s seat and prepared for take-off with Adam by my side. It was rather like Driver Training for my Beginner’s Licence since he had controls of his own that could correct any of my mistakes.

The engine started, I felt the plane roll down the runway as we began to taxi, and like driving a car, there was a yellow line that followed down the runway and I was asked to follow it. Quickly, I learned that the joystick was very touchy; each slight movement of my hand moved the plane away from the yellow line and I was in control.

We were about to take-off! My heart was racing with excitement! I had been tandem sky-diving and flying numerous times in airplanes and helicopters, but I’d never had the responsibility of controlling the situation. In the past, I simply sat back and enjoyed the ride, but this time the “joy”  or “plane” was in my own hands.

During the exhilarating flight lesson, I flew over the incredible beaches of Orange County and inland toward the mountains. At first, I was extremely nervous and talking or looking around was beyond my capabilities, but I realized even though I was participating, I was missing out on the experience. I took a deep breath, relaxed, and dove into conversation while glimpsing at my surroundings every chance I could get.

When Adam took the controls and prepared for our landing, I didn’t think about checking off an item on my Bucket List; I thought about how I could return to the skies again because it was so easily accessible, yet it gave me the opportunity of a lifetime.

My soul is in the sky. I long to return.

 It’s every little boy’s dream to fly an airplane and I want to give the gift of a dream-come-true to my husband so planning his introductory lesson, when I return for my second flight, will be the next “to do” on my list.

Limited in his nature, infinite in his desires,
Man is a fallen god who remembers heaven.

— Alphonse de Lamertine, ‘L’Homme,’ addressed to Byron in 1819.

107 thoughts on “Come Be Part of the Sky – My First Airplane Pilot Lesson

    • When I lived in El Monte, CA we were near a small aircraft airport and I always wanted to learn. Unfortunately, I never put it on the forefront of my list. Twelve years later my oldest son, 17yrs old, decided he wanted to fly for the US Air Force. Now that we are in california’s high desert, I made a point for him to see his dreams of flying through, so I enrolled him at Apple Valley Aviation. My teenagers never smile. Never. But after his first flight I new he was stoked. I sent him to San Diego later that year to do Dog Fighting over La Jolla. I think it is great to see your dreams through. My dreams were to visit all 50 states at some point. I’m 38 now and have only been to 5, i am inspired to fulfill my dreams now.


      • Teenagers are funny that way. You can’t rely on them being the happiest of people 😉 As a high school year for eight years, I’ve had a little bit of experience with that 🙂

        I’m so happy that he found something that interests him. You never know, maybe he’s found his niche.

        Happy Holidays and I hope the world is at your doorstep.



  1. I thought I’d stop by your blog since you stopped by mine and LIKED. I like your blog too! You sound like quite the adventurous soul. You GO Girl! PS Good luck with your daughter…motherhood one of the toughest jobs you’ll LOVE!


  2. Oh, now you’ve gone and done it!!! Once you get the flying bug- it is very hard not to look for every small, single enging plane you hear above- and be jealous- that they are ‘up there’ when you are down here!!! Took my first flight lesson when I was about 14 and, although I never got the actual license..(insert regret here)..I did spend 100s of hours in ‘lessons’ and doing ‘solos’..just so I could go up above it all!!! The world comes into much better perspective when you are flying- there is a clarity up there that gets lost down here in the maze of homes and street signs. Oh you have to go again and again and again– it is amazing!!! (Keep writing- I love your writing!!)


  3. Thanks for liking my silly blog post on Israel! I’ve managed to get lost in the AMAZINGNESS that is your blog. I am so jealous of your travels and adventures. I’ll be sure to keep reading. 🙂


  4. Thank you again for passing through more than once to like a post on my blog – It’s always nice to see you there since I follow your blog and love your energy and i’m very grateful that you took the time to look at mine between your busy life. I hope all is well with you and yours. Enjoy the rest of your week!


  5. I have been a pilot since I was 17, I was fortunate to be in an area where crop dusting is very common. I worked 2 summers free of charge in exchange for lessons.

    I will not spoil it for you but the day you solo, well that day is not like any other.

    Stay safe, always enjoy your lessons, even the hard ones and always remember “every take off is optional, all landings are mandatory”.


  6. Wow, that is awesome! A good friend of mine owns a private airline and I have flown with him several times. I plan on taking flight lessons in 2013, however your post makes me want to cross it off my list a lot sooner! I want to concentrate on travel in 2012, or I would. Thanks for sharing.


  7. Thought I would stop by and read your blog, thank you for posting a “Like” on mine. I admire the heck out of you for coloring outside the lines and pursuing your bucket list! This Taurus bull child likes her feet on the ground, thank you very much, but thinks that those that soar contain within them a very, very special, wonderful spirit. Keep us posted!


  8. Are u doing this while yur still pregnant? Was yur baby having fun and kicking up a storm? I keep thinking this is something I’d like to do but I just got on my first small plane a year ago. Absolutely loved soaring above the island of Kauaii. As a mom though, nothing matches the adventure ahead.


  9. Woooo how cool! That must be an amazing feeling! I bought Charlie a helicopter flying lessons for Christmas and he said it was the best present ever and he want to do it again! 😀


  10. Thank you Lesley, it’s like flying with you, feeling a little that amazing freedom up on the air. You are lucky to have this opportunities, take advantage of them and enjoy! Is also great to read something enjoying, positive, full of energy. It helps a lot. At least it’s helping me. Happy Christmas!


  11. Ohhhhhh.. Had an adrenalin rush just thinking about it.. Have flown in a tiny helicopter over the glaziers in NZ and over the Victoria Falls…exhilarating to say the least but to take control? Waow! Brilliant photos too!


  12. Pingback: Lesley’s Latest Adventure – Becoming One With The Sky « SAXtreme Magazine

  13. Pingback: Lesley’s Latest Adventure – Becoming One With The Sky « SAXtreme Magazine

  14. Lesley, you are brave. Awesome venture! My husband was training for his private pilot license when we met, his instructor was a female. Later he did get his license. I took ground classes with him. I was too afraid to do the flying part. I just wanted to learn the books to be co-pilot. Later in Kaui, the pilot thought I had my license and let me take over the controls. “Wow” was that a feeling I’ll never forget. Too easy to make a wrong move into the water. Now with three kids later, no time to fly. I wish you all the best!


  15. I’m glad to read of your 1st flying lesson. As a pilot myself, I know how awesome flying is. My favorite way in the sky is hot air ballooning. You can see a pic of my balloon on my blog.
    It sounds as if you plan to take your new little one with you on your adventures. I did (still do) with mine. That’s the best!


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