As you know, the mission here at Flight1 is all about raising confidence in children whose families have been impacted by a serious health challenge, using the joy of flight. That seems straightforward enough, and we have a curriculum set up for that. But the thing about children is you can’t always predict what will work for each one!
Drew is a special work in progress to me. Him and his sister Taylor came to us, after the loss of their baby sister. One thing I have learned about children dealing with a loss or health crisis in their family is that you can’t always tell when their response to something might be related to the health challenge that affected their family, or a simple reaction to whatever is happening. I am always careful to remember our mission of building confidence, but it can be hard to tell how much we should encourage and challenge children, without pushing too far.
Drew did great in the flight simulator, never hesitating to try what the flight instructor suggested. He was, however, persistently adamant that he was NOT going to be flying in an actual plane. His mother and I reminded him of a friend his age who is in our program and already flew. Nope. Not interested.
A couple weeks later when they went for their flight, Taylor was excited, and hopped in the airplane. Drew was still confident he didn’t want to fly at all, but I was hopeful he might warm up to the idea. Taylor went for her flight, excited as she landed to tell us about all the things she got to try at the yoke. While she was flying, I distracted Drew from his anticipation of getting in the plane by talking to other pilots in the airport lounge, and looking at all the aircraft that had landed for fuel.
Finally, it was time to see what Drew wanted to do. Drew agreed to taxi around the airfield, but became annoyed at his mother’s cajoling and asked that she stay on the ramp, so I ended up jumping in the back of the airplane. We taxied around, and our flight instructor Jason talked about flying just one circle in the traffic pattern. Drew was interested, and for a moment, I thought he just might agree to it. We got to the edge of the runway, and he asked how high we would need to fly. Jason told him at least 100 feet up to get around the pattern and back for a landing. Drew blanched. “Nope.” As a compromise, we sped down the runway, and Jason did a long “wheelie”, keeping the back wheels on the pavement as the nose of the aircraft lifted. Eventually, the nose lowered, and we taxied back to the ramp.
I wondered how Drew really felt when we returned. Would he be disappointed that he didn’t give flying a try? Was he just relieved to be back, and the taxiing was enough of a challenge? Whatever the case, we will invite him back again soon, and when he is ready he just might leave the ground. I love that we can cater to our individual Courageous Flier’s needs, and can’t wait to update you that Drew completed his first flight!