This blog is part of a series on Brooke Banglesdorf, Curt and René’s daughter, who moved to Florida in March 2018 to become a full-time student at Flight Safety International in Vero Beach. For more, search “Brooke Banglesdorf” in our blog’s sidebar.

After a wait that was longer than she had hoped, Brooke was finally able to take her first solo flight on Friday in Vero Beach, removing a huge weight from her shoulders that had manifested for close to a year. First, however, she had to pass her check ride on Thursday.

“I’ve been talking about doing it for about a year now, so it’s been much anticipated,” Brooke said. “I was a little bit happier yesterday after passing my check ride. I felt more completed, because the whole thing was like earning the confidence of not just my instructor, but an FAA check airman.”

Getting the go-ahead from the check airman was the biggest relief of the entire process. Brooke said, considering the power he has regarding her future licensing. After that, the rest was easy.

The night before her solo, Brooke began getting her affairs in order for her early-morning flight. Upon waking up, she grabbed her coffee and completed her bible study before heading to Flight Safety International to finish up her pre-flight responsibilities.

“At Flight Safety, they see if you’ve had good nutrition the last 24 hours, how much sleep you’ve had, if there’s stress in your family, if there’s stress to finish the flight, how much alcohol you’ve had and all that,” Brooke said.

Once those tasks were completed, it was time to hit the runway. Her instructor was with her for the entirety of the pre-flight check, sitting on her wing and quite literally acting as her “wingman” after taking her up for a practice flight beforehand.

“I actually flew with my instructor, we went up before the tower even opened and before the sun was rising,” Brooke said.

Brooke’s practice flight gave her all the confidence she needed, comparing the sound of her near-perfect landing to the sound of a swishing basketball.

“I guess I landed pretty awesome, because just like in basketball, it’s like that ‘swish’ it makes,” Brooke said. “One of my favorite noises in when the airplane wheels go ‘eek,’ you know, just kind of the perfect little sound. I don’t know why, but I love that noise.”

The most anxiety-inducing part for Brooke, the air traffic control tower call, was seemingly the most insignificant, but she had more than just the ATC on the radio. Her parents, who were in Colorado at the time, were tuned in via a mobile app that allowed them to listen in.

“The most nerve-racking thing, which seems weird, was that I always try to be really good on the tower when I’m making my radio calls,” Brooke said. “I wrote down my radio call last night, what I needed to say, then I had to announce that it was my first solo to everybody listening, including my parents in Colorado listening on this live ATC app, like ‘Hey guys, I’m doing my first solo, everybody look at me’ which was really nerve-racking and kind of weird, then I got to the ramp, took a couple breaths, said ‘Alright, here we go,’ then started taxiing, got to the taxi line, then took off.”

After a more in-depth check ride that required Brooke to fly from one airport to the other, the simplicity of her actual solo flight was a little anticlimactic. When it was over with, Brooke wasn’t ready to be done flying.

“What you do when you solo is literally just go around in the pattern three times,” Brooke said. “I don’t check the airplane by myself. It’s literally like my instructor’s with me every step of the way. You just takeoff, go up in the pattern three times, then you land. That’s it. It’s like, I wanted to just keep going. I was like, ‘Let me go to another airport.’ I was so over-prepared. I was really happy, but I just wanted to keep landing, which I guess means I’m in the right spot.”

Now that she’s gotten her first solo out of the way, Brooke’s next steps are perfecting short-field landings and takeoffs, “nailing the things that check airmen are particular about during your private pilot check ride,” and eventually getting her private pilot’s license before possibly moving on to her commercial and multi-engine ratings.

“Multi-engine will be fun,” Brooke said. “I’m pretty excited for that. Once I get my multi-engine rating, then I can sit right seat with my parents’ plane buddies and actually have good conversation with them and feel like I can keep up.”