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Solo at Sixteen SWEET!

Instructor Steve Krog congratulates Tobie Stamsta after her first solo flight.
Photos by Amy Gesch

Tobie Stamsta also soloed in this Super Cruiser on her 16th birthday August 13.

August 13, 2009 — Thursday, August 13, 2009, was a big day for Tobie Stamsta, of Hartford, Wisconsin. Not only is it her 16th birthday, but she also made her first solo flight. This being her 16th birthday, she found time during the middle of the day to pass her driver’s test. But wait, there’s more - by the time the sun set on August 13, 2009, she very well may have soloed in a total of six airplanes.

Her instructor, Steve Krog, said Thursday morning that as of 9 a.m., Tobie had already soloed in a pair of Pipers – a J3 Cub and a PA12 Super Cruiser – at the Hartford Municipal Airport (HXF). At 9:45 a.m., she and her father got in the car and headed down to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation office in Waukesha so she could take her driver’s test, which she passed. Then they returned to the Hartford Airport where she soloed in a Luscombe 8E and an Aeronca 7AC Champ.

Later on Krog had plans to unveil a birthday surprise for Tobie. He had arranged for her to fly a Porterfield and a Taylorcraft BC 12D, before the end of the day, which would make it six different airplane solos, all on her 16th birthday, and getting her driver’s license to boot. How sweet is that?

“Very, very sweet,” Tobie said. “I’ve been saying that all day.”

Tobie’s father, Mark, was involved in the early ultralight movement and took to building Mini Max airplanes. When Tobie was 3-4 years old, she would help dad in the hangar. “I grew up at the airport,” Tobie said.

By her early teens, Tobie realized, “Hey, I can start taking my flight lessons.” When she was 14, she told her dad, “I want to learn how to fly.”

The next step was figuring out how to pay for it. So father and daughter went to the airport and met with Krog, who operates a flight school there. “We discussed some ideas of how she could work around the hangar in exchange for flight lessons,” Krog said. She started working - and flight lessons - last summer. Tobie worked five days a week washing airplanes, sweeping hangars, helping with oil changes, helping with the type club newsletters Krog edits, and other duties.

“You tell her what to do and she does it,” Krog said. “And you don’t have to tell her twice.”

This summer Tobie, a straight-A student, has cut back to three days a week working at the airport, whose pilots have taken Tobie under their wing, so to speak. “She’s the adopted little sister around here,” Krog said. They all planned to get together later in the day for a birthday barbecue.

A person cannot solo until their 16th birthday according to FAA regulations, so Tobie has been looking forward to this day for some time. Now she’s looking forward to her next birthday, when she can go for her checkride and become a private pilot. That, by the way, will be Friday the 13th, 2010.

“That will be my lucky day,” Tobie said.

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