License to Learn

Lake Meredith on my first solo cross-country to La Junta KLHX

A feat over a year in the making, I’m very happy to say that I am now a certificated Private Pilot. Yes, today, 9/11/2021, I passed my checkride in N99243, a C172P at Meadow Lake Airport KFLY.

Looking through photos, I saw that my first flight in a small GA aircraft was on June 20, 2019. You may remember the topic I made about that entire week, in which I said:

While I didn’t end up going to AEFCO’s program, I did go to ground school later that year with my flight school, and completed it right before like, literally the week before COVID hit the U.S. Before my ground school ended, I took a Discovery Flight with my flight school. Ironically, and I didn’t realize this until a couple weeks ago, my discovery flight was in the same plane I passed my checkride in; I suppose it was destiny.

N36413, the first GA plane I ever flew (in)

The discovery flight got me hooked, and in June 2020, I took my first and second actual flight lessons in a C150, N5937G. I continued flying throughout the year, and by September 20, with 12.2 hours total, it was time for my first solo. I did three patterns with my instructor, and then, the moment became real as he stepped out of the plane. After three landings, and the pattern getting busier, I decided to call it quits on my first successful solo flight. I was beaming with joy.

Me, pulling up to parking after my first solo

I flew throughout the remainder of 2020, including on my first instructed cross-country flight. On January 4, 2021, I did my night cross-country flight with my instructor in a C172P, N99243. Little did I know at the time, I would end up flying “243” for the remainder of my training as N5937G would get totaled in a crash at Meadow Lake.

I would perform my first solo cross-country on April 2, 2021, and unfortunately, COS was so busy that I wasn’t able to do stop-and-goes on my way back form La Junta, which meant I’d have to go back to get my towered airport full stops. I set out to do just that on April 25. I had taken off from Meadow Lake and done some pattern work and got going to COS. After my first landing, I heard a “pop,” which turned out to be the right tire popping which I documented in a reply to “Scariest Moments as a Pilot”. I didn’t fly for a month and a half following that incident. However, I got back in the saddle in June, and flew continuously throughout the rest of the summer. I completed my longest solo to date, from Meadow Lake, to Limon, to Akron, and back. I thoroughly enjoyed that flight.

N99243 with a popped right tire on COS 35R

Akron, CO, after departure from KAKO

Following my last and longest solo cross-country as a student pilot, I went hard into the paint with my instructor to make my maneuvers and speciality takeoffs/landings perfect. I had reserved my checkride date for August 28, 2021, with a reserve on September 11, 2021, in case I needed it.

August 28 rolled around, and after my studying, I felt that I had the checkride in the bag. I got to Meadow Lake, set up everything I needed (aircraft logs, etc), and was set to go for my oral exam. My DPE arrived, and after about two hours, my oral exam was complete. I had passed! “Want to go fly?” she asked, and I replied that I’d like to check the weather. I called our AWOS, and sure enough, the density altitude had crept up to 10,000. “That’s what I was worried about,” I said. I ended the day with a discontinuance. However, I had passed the oral, which I was most stressed about.

I flew a solo flight on September 5 to work on some maneuvers and landings on my own. I ended the flight feeling excited for Saturday, because I knew that I knew what I was doing in the air. Throughout the week, the excitement kept building, but there was also a feeling that my checkride was, in a sense, ironic. I would be taking it on September 11. 9/11. Twenty years after the horrific attacks in the U.S.

Finally, the week was over, and Saturday was here. I got to the airport, as did my DPE, and we flew. I chose to do my landings first because the winds felt comfortable to me. I completed them relatively uneventfully, and got going on my planned cross-country to Pueblo. We diverted as I expected, and got into my maneuvers. Thermals and wind kept my attention all over the place, keeping an eye on altitude, speed, and control, and then we got going back to Meadow Lake. One final landing, taxi to parking, and the words I had been waiting for were spoken: “Congratulations, you’re a private pilot.”

Overall, my flight training experience was unique, marked with periods of not flying for about two months, to a popped tire, to the most fun I’ve had in my life. I’m excited for what the future holds. I’m not sure I’ll miss being a student pilot, but I know I’ll miss the feeling of doing a maneuver perfectly for the first time, or touching down at an airport other than Meadow Lake for the first time. After 43.8 total flight hours, I proudly became a private pilot. I’m one of just a few students my instructor has had with sub-50 hours going into a checkride. I’m proud of myself for that as well.

I now have my “license to learn,” and I can’t be happier.

Me, pictured after my PPL Checkride


Congratulations man! That was actually a really entertaining story to read! Here’s to many more buttery landings 🍾

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Congratulations Ethan! So proud of you!

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Congrats Ethan!

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Congrats Ethan! It’s an amazing feeling to get that ticket!

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Thank you all for the congratulations. I’m very happy to have joined the ranks of pilots across the U.S.

Congratulations, quite the story!

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So happy and proud, great job!

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Congratulations on your private!! Wish you the best in your future training. (ifr next?)

Plan’s 141 at UND, ideally.

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Congrats Ethan! I have a special bottle of champagne for occasions like this, I think its time we open it.

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I’ll have sparkling cider 😌

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Congrats Ethan! (Feels too weird saying this name to someone else)

Hope your achievement takes you further into your great career through aviation! ✈

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Congrats! I just recently passed my checkride also! Welcome to the skies my friend!

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Meadow Lake is a beautiful place to fly, and it makes things a little easier knowing the mountains will always be to the West. Congratulations!

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