A pair of Tallulah Falls School students took to the air recently, marking a first solo flight off the checklist on the way to earning a private pilot’s license.
Lawson Fulbright of Toccoa soloed on the occasion of his 16th birthday on Aug. 2 at the Toccoa-Stephens County Airport. Maggie Peacock of Clarkesville took off independently on Aug. 27, marking the milestone at the Habersham County Airport.
A Tallulah Falls School sophomore, Fulbright made three rotations around the field before making a smooth landing.
“My father [Mark Fulbright] has been a pilot for most of his life,” Fulbright said. “I grew up with him being around the airport. We always talk about planes.”
Taking lessons since March 2021 in a Cessna Skyhawk, the ambitious pilot-in-training plans to attend a college with a flight program.
“I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be,” Fulbright said. “It almost felt like second nature.”
As with life, Fulbright said, there is hard work and difficult lessons woven into the experience.
“You have to be present with it. You have to keep at it,” he said. “When you get to the point where you solo, there’s nothing like it – the sense of freedom; it’s hard to explain.”
Peacock, a TFS senior, had weather-related delays over several weeks before making her first trip.
She’s been taking lessons since mid-May, using the same model plane as her peer.
Trying to understand everything has been challenging, she said.
“There is a lot to know when it comes to flying like the instrument panel, rules and regulations, etc.,” she said. “It takes a lot of focus and patience to learn all that I need to know.”
A little nervous in preparing to fly for the first time, she kept calm during taxi and run-up.
“But the second I got up into the air by myself for the first time, it all felt so natural,” she said. “There was something peaceful about being up there by myself, and it seemed to be like second nature. I didn’t want to land because that meant my solo flight was over, and I wasn’t quite ready to stop.”
She’s always planned to study engineering in college, but she’s zeroed in on aerospace engineering as a focus.
“Auburn University is my top choice because of the programs they offer both as academic and extra-curricular, which will allow me to continue flying,” she said. “While I don’t think I want to do anything professionally with flying specifically, I’m hoping that by majoring in aerospace engineering, I will still be able to be rooted in the world of aviation.”
Both pilots took part in the aviation tradition of having the tail of their shirt cut off by their instructor, but in Fulbright’s case, his dad did the honors. The salvaged fabric is signed, dated and typically displayed in the airport hanger. This tradition is a sign of the instructor’s confidence in the student after the successful solo flight.