Last night, while picking up a few groceries, I got a call from reporter Alicia Petska informing me that the assignment she and I would be working on today had been confirmed for 7 AM. I am not a morning person so this wasn’t exactly welcome news. However, as far as assignments go, photographing a new pilot flying solo for the first time sounded pretty neat and being outside I thought I might get lucky with some nice morning light.
The morning clouds were just breaking up as I rolled into Falwell Airport at 7:05 and saw Alicia already waiting outside the hangar. As I sat yawning in my car, Alicia kept commenting on how “buttery” and “wonderful” the light was, which was true. A few minutes later our pilot-to-be and his instructor showed up and led us inside. Chris Tugman was celebrating his 16th birthday, the first day that he would be eligible to test for his pilot certificate, and he seemed calm and focused. By testing early in the morning he was likely to be the youngest licensed pilot in the country (world?) for at least a day.
As far as I could tell, watching from the tarmac as Chris circled overhead and landed a few dozen yards away, he did everything perfectly. While he was airborne, a few members of his family showed up and were waiting to cheer for him when he stepped out of the cockpit, smiling. It was a good morning. Alicia’s article also came together very well.