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Celebrate a century of flight with plane ride

by SAM BAUMAN

One hundred years ago today, the Wright Brothers of Dayton, Ohio, put mankind into the air with a 12-second powered flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C. The two went on to make four flights that day, the longest lasting 59 seconds.

In an effort to revive interest in flight, retired U.S. Navy Cmdr. Robert C. Brogan, veteran of 230 aircraft carrier landings, is offering an introductory flight lesson for $49, half the usual cost. The lessons are part of the nonprofit Be a Pilot program.

“Everyone has someone on their holiday list who seemingly has everything, or someone who would rather do things than own things,” says Brogan says. “A flying lesson, in which they’ll actually get to take the controls of a plane for a little while, could be the perfect idea for those people, and it may even lead to a new passion.”

The lesson includes everything a regular introductory lesson offers: complete, guided, preflight inspection of the four-seat Cessna 172; climbing into the pilot’s left seat and takeoff of the aircraft; and flying the plane to the Dayton area for a general rundown on control surfaces and their effects on the aircraft’s flight.

Preflight inspections are done to make sure the Cessna is in perfect shape for the flight. First, the general appearance of the plane is checked, then the controls are unlocked.

“Keeps the plane from being stolen,” said Brogan. The control yoke is freed, cargo hatch locked, sides of the fuselage inspected for popped rivets or wrinkles, horizontal stabilizer and vertical stabilizer tested for free movement. Both gas caps must be in place, and all seven antenna erect.

Then the anti-collision light is turned on and left on at all times.

“That keeps me from forgetting to turn off the battery,” said Brogan.

The transponder pod must be undamaged, the wing flaps moving freely, and the fuel supply checked three times to make sure no water has collected in the tanks.

Brogan uses a rag to check the leading edges of the propeller for nicks, then examines the oil, removes the cover from the Pitot tube that measures air speed, and makes sure the static air opening is clear.

“Never get out of the aircraft until the propeller stops,” warns Brogan as he prepares to start the engine.

The engine is primed, a quick cough, and it begins to rev up. All gauges checked, student pilot in the left seat, brakes on the rudder pedals released, the plane begins to move with the engine at about 1,000 rpm. The student steers with the rudder pedals down the taxiway to the end. After running up the engine and making a 360-degree check for other aircraft, the plane swings out on the runway, and at 40 knots is airborne.

The student is in control, the plane lifts, and with a bank begins to circle Carson City. Then it’s due north to Reno, a landing there and taxi before taking off at 60 to 90 knots back to Carson City.

Brogan brings the plane in after a final approach paralleling the runway. It’s a slight bump and a taxi run back to the tiedown spot. And that’s the first flight lesson – total air time just 54 minutes.

“To get a certificate – not a pilot’s license – the FAA requires 40 hours of dual and solo, but research has shown that it’s more like 74 hours for the average student to qualify. That’s at $110 an hour dual and $80 an hour solo. So you’re looking at perhaps $5,000 to $6,000 to become a pilot.”

No records are available to show how much it cost for Orville Wright to learn how to fly. It was just “seat of the pants” in those days.

Brogan has been to Kitty Hawk and seen its monument to the Wright Brothers. “It’s inspiring,” he says simply.

Approximately 200,000 people have registered for the introductory lesson since 1997, and more than 30,000 have gone on to continue their flight training.

“We hope that people will come away with an understanding that you don’t have to be a Top Gun or even particularly special to fly an airplane. Just about anyone can become a pilot,” Brogan said.

To join the celebration of 100 years of flight, call Brogan at 883-3111, Brogan Enterprises, Inc. Or simply register for a free certificate online at http://www.beapilot.com, or call toll-free (888) BE A PILOT.