Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I Did It!


First solo in the Cessna Skycatcher LSA


On a cool, crisp and calm October morning, I finally took my first solo flight. It was amazing! My journey to this point started almost three years before, in early 2007. My husband, Jack, and I had picked up a Cessna Stationair 206T from Cessna’s Independence, Kans., facility and my dream of learning to fly had started. After a couple of flights, I realized that perhaps the 206T was just a little too much airplane for a beginner.

A few months later, in June, I was on the set for a video shoot of Cessna’s new Skycatcher light-sport aircraft. This video was going to be part of the unveiling of the Model 162 at Cessna’s dealer meeting at Oshkosh. As I waited patiently while Jack participated in this taping, one of the crew asked if I would like to sit in the airplane. I said, “Sure.” As I sat in the cockpit, I was pleasantly surprised at the new glass panel and the great view over the instrument panel and out the side windows. I felt very comfortable and thought this would be the perfect airplane for me to learn to fly.

After the taping, we went to dinner and by the time our salads arrived, I had convinced Jack this was the right airplane for me to learn in. He asked if I wanted to be the first customer. I asked, “You can do that?” With a smile, he said, “Yes, I have connections!” After a few e-mails on his BlackBerry and by the time dessert arrived, I was the first customer.

It was exciting to follow the development of the Skycatcher from concept, through flight test and certification, especially as the first airplane off the production line from China made its way to Yingling Aviation in Wichita for reassembly.

I took delivery on Friday, December 18, 2009. Lynn Nichols and his team at Yingling put on a fabulous delivery ceremony with a special surprise of having John and Martha King in attendance. The Kings created the new web-based training course for Cessna to be introduced with the Skycatcher. This was going to mean an integrated training experience with my new airplane, already named “Rosebud.” I was going to be the first student using this course.

It was a bit windy on my first lesson, and I was a little nervous. But from my online course, I had learned that my instructor, Kirby Ortega, would perform our first takeoff and landing. He was ready to guide me through our short trip from Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport to Rosebud’s new home at Stearman Field in Benton, Kans.

Thus began my flying lessons in the new Skycatcher. I documented my lessons on my Facebook page, and by the fifth lesson, Jack asked if I would fly the Skycatcher with Kirby to Sebring, Fla., for the U.S. Sport Aviation show. Cessna wanted to put the plane on display there, since it was the first production 162 delivered. I quickly responded, “Yes,” because I had felt very comfortable so far in the airplane and with my lessons.



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