Program Director Under the Care of 13 year Old Pilot-In-Command

walter and hope

Walter, his mother and Hope – Flight1 Program Director

As program director at Flight1, one of my responsibilities is to schedule participants for their simulator and flight events in the Courageous Fliers program. After my ride with one of our participants in the Cesena Skyhawk, Courageous Fliers has a whole new meaning. -Hope


Walter is a 13 years old boy who lost his older brother a few years ago to illness. Walter has attended a few events with Flight1 and, on this day, ready for his first flight.

After a tour of the airport and some pre-flight planning, Walter became more relaxed and we made our way out to the airplane for the preflight inspection. Walter reviewed his checklist and inspected the airplane.

It was finally time to saddle up. Walter climbed in while our photographer, Steve, snapped photos. He was ready. He didn’t want his parents to ride along, so he invited Steve, our photographer, and I to ride along…

All the time we spent before the flight was to make Walter comfortable with flying the airplane. We wanted him to feel empowered, not fearful. I never thought about how unprepared I was to get in this airplane. I have never ridden in a plane so small, but replied with a cheerful, “Sure!” Hesitantly, I walked over and climbed into the, what now seemed very tiny, plane.

Dave, the flight instructor showed Walter a few things and away we were to find our runway under our 13 year old pilot’s control. We stopped to review a few more things then, before I knew it, we were speeding down the runway gaining speed so that Walter could pull back on the yoke to take off. The instructor took control to leave airport airspace and then handed all control back to Walter. He set route toward Geist Reservoir. We arrived at the reservoir on this warm sunny day and saw boats out on the water. As we circled around we saw the damn. It was beautiful.

As we returned, Walter made a radio announced and we did a “touch and go”. Dave, landed the plane and as soon as the wheels where down we picked up speed and Walter pulled back on the yoke and took off again. We finally circled back around and landed safely and taxied back to everyone waiting at the airport.

Walter did a great job that day. He logged his flight time when we returned and received his Flight1 certificate and wings with a huge smile. Watching Walter fly with confidence and overcoming my own fears has opened my eyes to the profound impact the Courageous Fliers program has on our participants. I’m so happy I can help make it happen.

-Hope Neely, Flight1 Program Director