THIS is the reason my blog has been suffering the last three weeks. Apologies.

While most of my readers know me for skiing, I have many other passions in life. Aviation is one of those passions. When I was a kid my life goal was to be a pilot. I wanted to go to the Air Force Academy and fly for the military. In 2002, for my birthday, my dad surprised me with an introductory flight. This was my first glimpse into aviation.

From age 13 onward through high school I was known as the kid who flew and who skied. Every weekend and three times a week during the summers I took flying lessons. By the time my 16th birthday rolled around I was a seasoned pilot. Most normal teenagers look forward to getting their driver’s license at 16 but I was looking forward to soloing an airplane for the first time. Soloing is something every pilot must do in order to, eventually, get their license. My 16th birthday fell on a Sunday so the DMV was closed so instead I soloed an airplane on my birthday and got my driver’s license the next day.  I flew an airplane by myself before I could drive by myself. Aviation was in my blood.

My senior year of high school came around (I graduated early so I was still 16 when I began my senior year). I was still flying and I had also begun to apply to the Air Force Academy. I had no backup plan because I knew the Air Force is where I was supposed to be. I won’t go into the entire process but it has long been noted that getting into Harvard is easier than getting into a military academy.  Spring of my senior year I found out I was accepted into the Air Force Academy! More on this in a moment.

In the middle of my senior year I turned 17, the age in which I could legally get a pilot license. Shortly after my birthday I was schedule to take my checkride to get my license. A checkride is the final step in getting a private pilot’s license. I bring an FAA examiner along with me in the airplane and they make sure I am proficient in all aspects of flying. I was scheduled to take my checkride on a certain day at a certain time. After arriving at the airport I found out the examiner was late and had to push back the exam a few hours. I was livid (remember at this point I was a 17 year old boy, not the most mature…). I told the FAA examiner how I felt and walked out (I also had to work or I had a date that night so I obviously couldn’t be late for that… oh the priorities I had back then…). That was the end of my flying, for a short period of time.

After that day I waited a few weeks and I was going to start flying again but something else happened. I found out I couldn’t go to the Air Force Academy… the worst news of my life. Yes, earlier I said I was accepted, which is true, but I was than subsequently denied by the “Medical Review Board” in Washington DC. Part of applying to a military academy requires the applicant’s entire medical history to be sent to the “Medical Review Board” in DC. This board isn’t part of the military or part of the military academies, it was a separate group run by politicians, not uniformed officers. Everything I had worked the past 4 years of my life for was gone with one letter. I was devastated and flying went from a passion to something I never wanted to do again.

Cut to 2012.

It took a while to get over all that but since 2006 a lot of great thing have happened to me and I am glad I didn’t end up going to the AFA.

As most of my readers know, my girlfriend of a few years is Ashley Atkinson.  She’s a wonderful part of my life and I love her very much. One thing I was immediately attracted to her for was the fact she was an aspiring pilot and she loved aviation. In fact, we had very similar stories. She began flying in high school but never finished due to certain circumstances.

Around March of this year (2012) I decided it was time for both of us to finish and get our private pilot certificates. Ashley didn’t graduate until mid-May so the plan was to go to Houston, where her family lives and her dad has his planes, and finish up. May 23rd was my first time behind the controls of an airplane in 5+ years.

In two weeks’ time Ashley and I started flying again, passed our written exam, re-soloed, passed our oral exam, and passed our checkride. We officially became private pilots on June 6, 2012.

The best part about the entire process was making our fathers proud. It was my dad’s dream for me to get my license. He put thousands of dollars of investment into my flying career and seeing me get so close in high school and not following through hurt him pretty bad.  From the start I knew that I wanted to surprise him after I had gotten my license.

Ashley and I had told my parents that her dad was flying us up to Fort Worth and we needed them to pick us up at the airport. Little did they know it was just Ashley and I flying up on our first official trip as private pilots.

Words cannot describe how great it feels to finally have my license. I finished a chapter of my life that began 10 years ago. Now I can start having fun flying airplanes around with my girl!

I have to send a HUGE thank you to Ashley for sharing this experience with me. Also huge thanks to Pat, Ashley’s dad, for helping her and me through the process and giving us the motivation to get back into aviation. Thank you to Galaxy FBO and Mike Doyle for the no BS approach to getting us current again and having us ready to get our license. The biggest thanks goes to my dad for introducing me to aviation in the first place!

Enjoy the photos and videos.




Private Pilots License Trip to Surprise My Dad from Mark Brown on Vimeo.









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