The Red Baron

Amelia Earhart, eat your heart out.

Ever since I could talk, I’ve been very vocal about my ambitions to fly. One of my childhood heroes was Amelia Earhart. In second grade, we were assigned to read a biography and dress up as the subject to give our report. Many boys and girls showed up as former presidents, actors and inventors. I showed up in aviator glasses, an ear-flap hat, an oversized bomber jacket that most likely belonged to my mom, with a miniature plane in my hand. And unlike some of my childhood dreams (who knew you had to make it over five-feet-tall to be a model? I cry height discrimination!), going for my pilot’s license has just stuck. But it’s never been something I’ve been able to pursue. Enter my husband, Alex.

I often thing he wracks his brain every holiday and birthday wondering what to get the woman that seemingly has everything. But this birthday, he knew exactly what to do and it wasn’t another pair of shoes or piece of jewelry.

On Thursday, my 30th birthday, we jumped in the car and headed to Plum Island Airport. My mom and sister came along to witness the momentous occasion that was about to take place: my first flight lesson.

I felt my heartbeat quicken as I climbed into the left side of the small cockpit beside Sammy, my instructor. My husband sat in the back.  He later told me that he was terrified the entire time.

Sammy explained a few of the pre-flight procedures that you have to go through for a successful take off and before I knew it we were in the air, flying high above the Massachusetts coast.

Flying over Ipswich, Massachusetts

As this was my first lesson I was unsure of what to expect when it came to how much hands-on experience I would have. But as soon as we were hovering at about 1,000 feet and going a steady 100 mph, Sammy took his hands off his wheel and told me to take over.


What an amazing, liberating, exhilarating experience! It took me 30 seconds to get a feel for it and after that, it was smooth sailing. We flew out over Ipswich to Gloucester. I am grateful that my husband took a few pictures of the ground below because even though I did take a peek over the side, I mostly focused on the horizon before us.

When I got to the ocean past Gloucester, Sammy told me to turn it back to Plum Island. From there I followed the straight line on the GPS back to the airstrip.

It was over way too soon. Before I knew it, Sammy had landed the plane and we were taking off our headsets. After posing for a few obligatory pictures, I headed in to talk with John Murray of Murray Aviation.

I told him that I was hooked. He told me that I’d be welcome to enroll in his certification course and from there I could start logging hours in the sky. Sammy told me he would love to take me up any time I wanted and called me “a natural.”

I left there with my official pilot’s log book, the first line documenting my first half hour in the sky. I looked at my husband, who had been so generous in gifting this incredible experience to me for my birthday.

“Only 39 and a half hours to go!” I told him.

He laughed, knowing he’d created a monster.


Thanks to my husband for the best birthday gift he could ever give me. Also thanks to my mom and my sister, Anna, for coming to support me and play photographer.

And a big thanks to Sammy and John of Murray Aviation for an amazing first flight experience. I’ll be seeing you guys in February for the certification class!


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