by Pam Tobin, Published February 14, 2012
LANSING - Azure skies and calm winds marked January 10 as a perfect day for Noah Heuser, 23, of Lansing, to make his first solo flight in a Cessna 172 airplane at the Capital Region International Airport.
While a first solo is noteworthy itself, there were two other firsts on that sunny afternoon: Heuser was the first student to be soloed by his new flight instructor Scott McDonald, 25, of St. Johns, and he was also the first student to solo at the new Lansing Flight Training Facility, which is operated in a partnership between the Eagle Flight Centre and EMU and is located on the west ramp of the airport.
The program prepares students for careers in the aviation industry and is modeled after Eastern's established program with Eagle Flight Centre, which has been operating out of Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti for five years. The Lansing facility also offers programs for recreational flyers to earn their pilots license.
Asked his thoughts about his first solo, Heuser said, "Most of what was going through my head was how terribly cool it was to be given responsibility for a quarter-million dollar aircraft, and how much fun flying is in general."
Heuser said that he briefly wondered if soloing was truly something he could do as he taxied out onto the runway without his instructor.
But his instructor had no such qualms. McDonald had accepted Heuser as a student after his first flight instructor had left for another job. McDonald said he was immediately impressed with the young man's handling of the airplane.
"Even after my first flight with Noah, I realized he was not far from soloing the aircraft," McDonald said, "I had heard that he was an excellent student from his previous instructor ... His aircraft control was confident and he was attentive. "
Even so, McDonald said he closely monitored his student's flight technique as he put him through the maneuvers required for a first solo flight.
"We started off by working through various maneuvers, but Noah needed little or no help in understanding or performing them," McDonald explained. "Then, the day before the solo, we went up in somewhat difficult conditions with gusty winds and light bumps, and he handled the aircraft with confidence."
Then the next day was the perfect day for a student solo.
Jan. 10 was spectacular, with calm winds and no clouds.
"After a quick review of emergency procedures in the aircraft and some takeoffs and landings, I made a request to the Lansing Control Tower to join them to observe my first student's solo," McDonald said. "With permission granted and my student endorsed and signed off, I left Noah with the airplane to attempt his three takeoffs and landings without an instructor."
Despite Heuser's initial doubts, he said he was confident that he could fly the airplane and land without a problem.
"As I got my last clearance to land, the (air traffic control) guy and a few of the pilots on that frequency congratulated me on my first solo flight, and I found the pilot-banter to be cinematic and immensely satisfying."
Heuser said it was a fairly straightforward flight.
"I wouldn't really say that I learned anything new, but I was pleased with my progress, having gone from no flight experience to being fairly confident at flying a small plane in the space of a few months."
NOTE: For further information on the Lansing Flight Center, please contact flight director Pam Tobin at 517-323-6380 or email email@example.com