You know how certain days of your life are so monumental that they will be ingrained in your memory until the day you die? Yesterday was one of those days. Growing up I’ll never forget the framed cut up shirt that hung in my dad’s office. It was from the day he soloed on his way to becoming the pilot I had always known him to be. Unlike most kids, my family never went on road trips, we went on flying trips. To this day, my dad still owns the Bonanza that I grew up in. It’s a part of our family and flying is a part of who I am.
When I met Mark, I quickly learned that becoming a pilot was a dream of his. Ever since then my dad and I have done everything we can to fuel that fire and support and encourage his dream. I always had in the back of my mind the idea of getting my license one day as I wanted to keep flying a part of my life, however Mark’s passion has always been greater than mine. Seeing to it that he made this dream a reality became a goal of my own.
I grew up in Lake Havasu City, Arizona and every year we are fortunate enough to visit for a month over the holidays. As aviation resources are fewer and conditions more challenging in the Rockies, we’ve always said how incredible it would be to save enough money so that Mark could spend one entire month in Havasu flying nearly everyday so that he could get his license. (It takes a minimum of 40 hours of flight training to obtain your Private Pilot’s license.) After talking about it for so long it feels absolutely surreal that that month is here. Mark is flying nearly everyday and is well on his way to getting his license.
A huge milestone in getting your pilot’s license is your first solo flight. You start by taking lessons with an instructor until they feel you are comfortable enough for you to go it on your own. After roughly 15 hours of flight training, yesterday was the day.
Bob, Mark’s flight instructor, was kind enough to let us in on the fact that he thought today’s lesson might be the one that he decides Mark is ready to solo. So my dad and I went out to the airport that morning in hopes of witnessing it. We sat on the taxiway watching as Mark took off with Bob at sunrise.
They flew around practicing different flight maneuvers and landed about an hour later. He landed, started to taxi and then stopped. My heart started to race because I knew what was about to happen. Bob opened the door, stepped out of the plane, closed the door, and gave Mark the go head to head out on his own. Not a minute later Mark was in the air, flying solo. There’s no better feeling in the world than seeing a lifelong dream become a reality. I cried like a baby… so did my dad.
After he landed, got the plane tied down and shared congratulatory hugs, we headed inside for the moment I had been waiting for. The age old tradition of cutting the shirt-tails. It’s a ritual in the aviation community for the flight instructor to cut off the back of their student’s shirt after successful completion of their first solo flight. Everyone in the room had a huge grin as we watched Bob do the honors. The shirt now reads “Mark Sprague, 1st Solo, C172 N6272D, 01.03.12”.
I could not be more proud of my husband. We both have big dreams and are each others greatest fan. I can’t imagine life any other way or any better than it is at this moment.
Dream. Dream big. Make it happen. It’s what life is all about.