September 11, 2013
- Ever since he was growing up in Los Angeles, Brian Lewis knew he wanted to fly. He fondly remembers family outings at LAX where they'd park near the end of the runway at night to marvel at the big planes taking off and landing.
Lewis, now 54 and living in Cottonwood, Arizona, finally realized his dream of becoming a pilot this year thanks in large part to EAA's year-old Eagle Flights program. He went up with Dale Williams, EAA 1058739, in Williams' Cessna Cardinal (177B) for an Eagle Flight on November 27, 2012, and this past July Lewis became the first "Eagle" to earn a pilot certificate.
After that initial flight and others with Williams, Lewis started flight training in April this year, taking advantage of Williams' generous offer to use his Cardinal. On May 19, with just in excess of nine hours logged, he soloed for the first time, quickly followed by his dual cross-country and solo cross-country in June.
Lewis' instructor was Edward Kalabus Sr., a retired 767 captain with US Airways who flew internationally. Lewis called Kalabus "an amazing man and instructor. He had a lot of confidence in me and was truly inspirational in me achieving this goal."
When they started flight training, Kalabus would fly his Christen Eagle from Prescott (PRC) to Cottonwood. Later Lewis flew to PRC to pick up Kalabus.
On July 30, and with 42.7 flight training hours logged, Lewis passed his checkride to earn his private pilot certificate. He also scored 100 percent on the FAA written exam.
Williams, EAA 1058739, also of Cottonwood, recalled the FAA examiner commenting, "Nobody gets their license with 42 hours!"
"I'm just extremely proud," Williams said. "It's been very rewarding to see Brian do so well, and so quickly."
Williams adds that he feels his late-in-life involvement in EAA's flight mentoring programs (he's also flown double-digit Young Eagles) allows him to give back some of what aviation has given him over the years. Williams earned his private ticket in 1954, and got involved in flying through the Civil Air Patrol where he advanced to the rank of cadet commander.
Lewis, now an elementary school teacher, was previously a police officer. He earned wings of a different sort - motorcycle wings - while serving, but he also fed his aviation appetite by flying virtually with X-Plane flight simulator. Becoming very proficient, Lewis feels his advanced sim experience gave him a leg up when actual flight training began.
His fast-track to flight over the past year was actually ignited by another EAA program - Young Eagles. That's how he met Williams, who set up an exhibit at Cottonwood Municipal's Airport Fest in 2011. Lewis' son, Tyler, signed up to take a flight with Williams, 79, who's been flying for 60 years.
Williams and Lewis eventually became good friends, with Williams taking Lewis' daughter Kaitlynn for her Young Eagles flight, as well as flying his wife Brenda on an Eagle Flight. They're all EAA members now, as Lewis, EAA 1103446, took out a family membership.
With 53 hours in his logbook, Lewis looks forward to what he calls "the best flying weather of the year" - although in Arizona, it's pretty good throughout the year. He also plans to buy his own airplane someday.
Lewis is certain his son Tyler, now 14, will be a pilot some day. After his Young Eagles flight with Williams, Tyler completed the online Sporty's Learn to Fly course. There's been talk of getting into gliders until he starts flight training himself. Otherwise it's a pretty good bet father and son will fly together whenever they can.
On the day Lewis passed his checkride (July 30), Kalabus received a call from his son; he had just landed in Oshkosh during AirVenture for the first time, and Lewis could see the look of pride on his instructor's face.
"I would also love to fly to Oshkosh during AirVenture someday," Lewis said, "and make that call back home."