Georgetown’s newest pilot did not let a major thunderstorm—the first rain in 60 days!—get him down on the morning of his 16th birthday; the day he finally became eligible to make a solo flight. Evan Eissler is a junior at Georgetown High School, and over the past two years, he spent more than 80 hours training in his family’s N217TF aircraft to prepare for the moment. Fortunately, other than meteorologists, no one knows weather like a pilot, so Evan knew he just had to postpone his success for about 30 minutes.
Right on cue, at 8:30am, the skies cleared up nearly completely, the wind died down, and Evan departed from the north end of the Georgetown airport. He was airborne for about 30 minutes, during which he performed three touch-and-go maneuvers, and made a perfect landing.
Evan is the first student to solo in a TangoFlight-built airplane, but flying is in his blood. His grandfather Don Richards, had his first solo at age 16 and has been selling aircraft for 50 years. Evan’s parents, Trevor and Robin, both completed their solos on their 16th birthday, and Trevor is a full time captain for NetJets. Since purchasing the plane—the first built by GISD students—Trevor has flown many students in it, to give them the experience. As a spectator for this special flight, he was relaxed, feeling confident in his student’s ability, and enjoyed the moment with family and friends.
Evan has been flying with his father since 9th grade, joined TangoFlight as a sophomore, and is helping again with this year’s build. Inside the cockpit, he mounted several cameras to capture the moment up close, which is available on his YouTube channel (EvanEissler). He was all smiles when he exited the plane (to great applause) and said he was never nervous, just excited.
“It was really fun doing it by myself,” he said, “I’m excited that I can fly now by myself whenever I want. I would love to have a career as a pilot, especially because it’s such a big part of my family.” He is already looking forward to his 17th birthday so he can get his license; his 18th birthday, so he can fly for hire; and his 21st, so he can make it a career.
Robin says right now there is no limit to where Evan can fly, as long as his dad (instructor) is aware of his flight. His new goal is to build up valuable time to be ready for the next steps up in his career.
Founded by President Dan Weyant, and beginning their fifth school year, TangoFlight is a non-profit partner for GISD’s aerospace engineering course. Dan says the program was borne out of a pilot shortage; “It was our intent to help kids get an education in aviation, and eventually a pilot license; something that is beyond the resources of most kids. It is a great technical education, with college-level curriculum, and it can be tailored to give students a direct path into the workforce as pilots, mechanics or airframe techs.” As proof, TangoFlight is now up and running in ten other schools across the country.
The goal of the course is to give students a unique experience; real world, hands-on adventure building an airplane. The N217TF is an experimental aircraft; very light, and burns less than five gallons of automotive gasoline per hour, so it is also very inexpensive to operate. Robin affirms, “Buying and operating the plane was less expensive than paying for the lessons required to log the hours for the license.” Grandpa Don says it is also quite safe; “Scheduled maintenance for planes is the law, so they are safer than cars or boats.”
As he watched his first plane come full circle, literally and figuratively, Dan smiled to announce that the 2018 GISD plane would be delivered to its new owners the following Monday. “We would love it if the schools could keep the aircraft for training, but we are fortunate to have eager buyers. Each sale provides funding for the next build, and with more schools in the program, there are more planes available for people who wish to buy one.”
So, perhaps, if you’re looking for a special “gift” for that person in your life who seems to already have everything, you can contact Dan@TangoFlight.org.
Because Trevor was Evan’s instructor, he had the honor of cutting the back of his shirt right after the flight.
In American aviation tradition, cutting the back of the new pilot’s shirt (or shirt-tail) is a sign of the instructor’s new confidence in the student after successful completion of the first solo flight.
In the early days of flight, pilots trained in tandem aircraft; the student sat in the front seat, with the instructor behind. Most planes did not have radios, so the instructor would tug on the student pilot’s shirt-tail to get his attention, then yell in his ear.
A successful first solo flight is an indication that the student can fly without the instructor. There is no longer a need for the shirt tail, and it is cut off by the proud instructor, and often displayed as a trophy.