13th SC(E) Spouse Takes to the Air

Story and Photos by Sgt. Joel F. Gibson

TEMPLE, Texas — My wife Tina and I just celebrated our historic fifth wedding anniversary, and as everyone knows, the traditional gift for a fifth wedding anniversary is a flying lesson.

Maybe not, but if there’s one thing about my wife it’s that she’s non-traditional. A long time ago, I gave her the choice between upgrading her wedding ring and getting a .357 magnum and she still owns a $25 ring.

When I told her I had arranged for a flying lesson for her, she was absolutely thrilled.

We live in Killeen, so I started by trying to find a flight school operating out of the Killeen airport with no success. However a few google searches later brought me to the Wings Over Texas Aviation website.

Using the website I found out everything I needed to know, from the location of the school to the price of the lesson. Sure it was a bit of a haul being all the way out in Temple, but I wanted to provide the perfect gift.

When we arrived at the hangar, roughly 22 minutes after leaving our house in Killeen, the school’s owner, Tom Mullins was washing the floor. He literally dropped everything when we arrived to give us a tour of the facility and to find out from Tina what her expectations were as a student.

We spoke at length about the school and its history, and Tina told Tom she intended to earn her private pilot license.

Tom explained the qualifications a student must meet to earn a license, “You need to have at least 40 hours of flight, 10 solo, you have to pass a flight physical and a written examination.

There are also several special types of flights you must make before you can take your check ride with a [Federal Aviation Administration] official.”

“We have a lot of students who finish in three or four months,” said Tom.

Shortly after Tom finished his explanation we were introduced to Craig Caddell, a certified flight instructor with Wings Over Texas.

“What we’ll do today,” said Craig, “I’ll start you out with a preflight inspection, then we’ll head out on a flight.”

Tina looked nervous as Craig mentioned actually flying, but it passed quickly.

After completing the preflight inspection, Tina held the seat up so I could climb into the spacious backseat of the Cessna 172 known as 65 Echo(the last three alpha-numerics in its tail number).

We taxied out to runway 20 with Craig doing most of the work. The whole time we were taxiing, Craig was instructing, he explained we were taking off on runway 20 because the wind was blowing towards compass heading 210 at six nautical miles per hour, and you always want to take off into the wind.

We lined up at the end of the runway and opened the throttle. At 70 knots, Craig told Tina to ease the control yoke back for takeoff.

“Oh wow,” she exclaimed as the back wheels followed the front wheel off the ground and we were airborne.

We leveled off at 2000 feet over sea-level, roughly 1300 feet over Belton Lake.

From Belton Lake we headed toward Stillhouse Hollow Lake in a mild climb. We reached 2500 feet just north of the eastern edge of Stillhouse.

Tina performed a right bank to parallel Route 190 at just over 2700 feet.

While running along route 190, Craig showed Tina how the trim wheel works to keep a plane level, climbing or descending, while minimizing the input the pilot has to put on the yoke.

After clearing Stillhouse Hollow Lake, Tina turned the plane west at 3300 feet. Craig showed Tina what happens when you go into a descent too eagerly, and I got a chance to take a zero-gravity photo.

We went over the Killeen airport at 3000 feet and then turned south toward Fort Hood.

If you ever get a chance to look at an aviation sectional, which is very similar to the maps we use for land navigation, it will show you that Fort Hood is restricted airspace, which the air traffic controller informed us of when he politely requested us to reverse course immediately.

Tina performed a 180 degree turn and we headed back toward the Temple Airport.

When we got back to the airport, we performed a touch and go.

A touch and go is a landing, but instead of lowering your throttle and applying brakes after landing, you immediately run up the engine and take off. For log purposes it counts as a landing and is a great way to practice the most difficult and important aspect of routine flight.

After a single touch and go, we landed for real and taxied back to the Wings Over Texas Hangar where Craig annotated 1.1 hours of flight and two landings into my wife’s brand-new pilot logbook.

“I liked it a lot,” said Tina, “It was kind of scary at first but it’s definitely something I could get used to.”

For more information about learning how to fly in the Fort Hood area, check out the Wings Over Texas Aviation website at www.flywingsovertexas.com